Housing in Wales

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

The title tells you what this week’s article is about. I’m going to look at how the picture has changed in the past few years.

THE BIG PICTURE

Obviously, there are different types of housing, from mansions like Jac o’ the North Towers to more modest owner-occupied properties; then we have social rent properties, and properties rented from private landlords.

So let’s start by looking at how types of tenure have changed over the past two decades. (The year up to March 31, 2001 is the earliest I can find on the StatsWales website.)

The table I’ve drawn up is fairly self-explanatory. ‘Registered Social Landlord’ (RSL) is of course the official term for housing associations.

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The headline figure is that there are 163,067 more dwellings or housing units in 2020 than there were in 2001. Though in the same period the population rose from 2,910,232 to 3,152,879, while the average household size fell from 2.36 to 2.26.

In fact, if we multiply the total number of housing units by the average household size we arrive at a figure of 3,248,901.42. Almost a hundred thousand more than the population estimate. But of course calculations are complicated by people living in care homes, prisons and other institutions. And then there are holiday homes. And properties that have just been abandoned, where it’s often difficult to track the owner.

So, all things considered – and without taking my socks off to do some really serious figuring! – we have roughly the same availability of housing in relation to demand as we had twenty years ago. Maybe things are worse.

Something else we can extract from the table is that in 2001 19% of Welsh properties were social rents, whereas the figure today is just 16%.

But perhaps the biggest change has been the doubling in the percentage of properties now rented from private landlords.

If current trends continue then very soon more people, more families, will rent from private landlords than from councils and housing associations combined. This of course is what the Conservatives want, but why is it happening in ‘progressive’ Wales?

SOCIAL HOUSING

In 2001 we had 242,853 units of social housing. By 2020 this had fallen to 229,902, a decrease of 12,951. Found in this table.

Partly explained by 34,829 units being sold in this period under the Right to Buy legislation introduced in 1980 by the first Thatcher government, with this later supplemented by Right to Acquire.

Though offset by the building of 21,878 social rented housing units in the same period. Just over 1,000 a year.

Right to Acquire is Englandandwales legislation introduced by the Blair government and in operation from 18 January, 2005. Explained more fully here.

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At this point I should tell you that not all sales of social housing are accounted for by Right to Buy and Right to Acquire because this table tells us there have also been sales of “non-social housing”. Though I don’t understand why the figure for this category is only shown from 2013 – 2014. Though there’s certainly been a steady increase since then.

Building just over one thousand social housing units a year must be considered a failure after two decades of socialist administrations in Cardiff Bay. Especially when we remember that in 1979 – 1980 (immediately before Right to Buy was introduced) Welsh local authorities built 3,322 new council homes. (RSLs built a further 377.)

And a thousand a year looks even less impressive when we remember that in the period of devolution a couple of billion pounds in capital grant funding has been given to an ever-expanding galaxy of housing associations.

In the past five years alone, £574 million pounds of Social Housing Grant (SHG) has been paid to housing associations. Wales & West, Labour’s favourite, has seen £61m of it.

SHG is not the only capital grant paid. There’s also the Housing Finance Grant.

I’ve drawn up a table for SHG payments you can view by clicking here. It’s quite a big table, so please have patience.

(I should add that while the bottom line is correct I can’t vouch for every figure in every column. I may have made a mistake or two in transcribing them. So here are the figures I received.)

While the amount paid in SHG from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 was 20% more than for the previous five years the stock of social rented housing increased in the same period by less than 2%.

We know that housing association executives like to pay themselves big salaries, and drive fancy company cars . . . shiny new offices are a must . . . and how can they miss out on all the conferences and other jollies, but these could never account for the increasing gulf between funding received and social housing built.

Something else must be going on.

If nothing else, Wales is following England in providing less social rented housing. So much for Rhodri Morgan’s, “clear red water”. So much for, “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”.

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The Tories came to power in 2010, and that’s when the decline started. Clearly, the Labour management team in Corruption Bay is following Conservative directives when it comes to social rented housing.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

If we take the period 2014 – 2015 to 2019 – 2020 we see that it covers important changes in the way RSLs are regulated, and also how they operate.

I’m sure most people didn’t notice, but in the past five years Welsh housing associations were originally private bodies, were then made public, before being privatised again.

It was the Office for National Statistics that decided they should be public bodies due to the amount of public funding they were receiving. Plus the political involvement. But making them public bodies transferred their debts to the public ledger and so the parliaments in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff quickly privatised them again.

It’s explained clearly and succinctly in the article below from Inside Housing, just click on it to make it readable. (Here’s a link to the original article.)

I bet you’re thinking . . . ‘If housing associations are now private companies, why are they still getting lashings of public funding?’ Funding that, as we’ve seen, has greatly increased since they were ‘re-privatised’!

The answer is that they’ve branched out into building private housing.

To such an extent that, in addition to the public funding, our housing associations are also taking out private loans with various financial institutions.

Here’s a report from May of United Welsh of Caerphilly, which has just 6,000 properties, borrowing £50m from Scottish Widows.

In July we learnt Coastal Housing Group of Swansea had entered into a £250m ‘refinancing’ deal with Aviva Investors.

In August, Cadwyn Housing Association of Cardiff did a deal with Westbourne Capital Partners of Chicago.

And other housing associations have done similar deals with organisations much sharper than them in the ways of the financial world. I do hope they’ve read the small print.

Though I suppose the only real collateral housing associations have is their housing stock. If they default, does this mean that Welsh social housing stock gets taken over by lenders? Or will the ‘Welsh Government’ step in with yet more money?

Talking of the ‘Welsh Government’, if RSLs need money for investment, why can’t they go to the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), which is already lending to other builders, many from over the border?

So let’s recap. Housing associations, now private bodies, still receive increasing amounts of public funding. Yet they also enter into arrangements with financial institutions around the world. And let’s not forget that the other major source of income – perhaps the major source – is rents from the housing stock they own. Most of which came free as stock transfers from local authorities.

Another noteworthy feature in this period is that most if not all of our housing associations have set up subsidiary companies, or companies that are not subsidiaries but still part of the group.

SUBSIDIARIES, PARTNERS, PRIVATE HOUSING

An example would be the relationship between Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing Association) and Mill Bay Homes Ltd (MBH). The latter, despite being a separate company, is a “wholly controlled subsidiary company of Ateb Group Ltd”.

The arrangement is that MBH builds and sells market properties and the profits go to parent company Ateb to build social housing or ‘affordable homes’. Which might be fine if Mill Bay Homes had its own money . . . but it hasn’t, it relies on loans from Ateb.

Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ funds a RSL to build social housing but the money in fact goes to a subsidiary to build open market homes (that most locals may not be able to afford) with a fraction of the original money returning to the parent company.

What is the point of such a system?

While Mill Bay Homes is a company registered with Companies House the Ateb Group is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

As we’ve seen with other housing associations, the Ateb Group has also borrowed money recently. Last month from the Principality Building Society. Back in July it was a loan of £18m from bLEND Funding PLC.

Officially, a cash security trust deed.

Click to enlarge

Eighteen bloody million! How much does a relatively small, rural housing association need? It’s already getting money from the ‘Welsh Government’, and seems to have stopped providing social rented housing.

A visit to the Ateb Group website turns up what you see below. Quite clearly, Ateb is now a private house builder with social rented accommodation an afterthought.

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Click on ‘homes for sale’ and you of course get taken to the Mill Bay Homes website.

And there seem to be some rum doings between the two.

I am indebted to Wynne Jones in Cardigan for these documents from the Land Registry website (from which I have redacted a few names in the second).

A property on this development in Cilgerran (Ceredigion) was built by MBH, with money borrowed from Ateb, then sold to Ateb for £164,950 in October 2019; the following month Ateb sold a 125-year lease on the property for £57,733.

What business model is this?

Mill Bay Homes makes no secret of the fact that it’s punting for retirees and ‘investors’. The latter category will include Buy-to-Rent landlords, and whaddya know – one of the new Cilgerran properties is already being advertised for rent.

Plot 3 at Maes Rheithordy, Cilgerran, is being rented for £670 per calendar month through Jac y Do Letting of Blaenporth.

A similar arrangement to that between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes exists in Gwynedd between Adra (formerly Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd), which took over Gwynedd council’s housing stock some ten years ago, and its subsidiary, Medra Cyf.

A few days ago Adra put out this puff about building 1,200 new homes across ‘North Wales’. The “housing crisis” referred to is perhaps the lack of housing for commuters in the A55 corridor.

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The subsidiary that will be doing much of the building is Medra . . . with a loan from Adra.

This loan between a Welsh RSL and its subsidiary was arranged by London law firm Trowers & Hamlins. I’ve seen that name in other loans I’ve looked at. Are there no lawyers in Wales?

Of course there are, so who’s directing them to that company?

Also worth highlighting from recent years, in addition to the proliferation of subsidiaries, is the strange partnerships we see being forged.

For an example of this we stay in the north, with Cartrefi Conwy, based in Abergele.

I’ve written about this lot a few times. Below you’ll read what I had to say earlier this year, in Housing Associations, a broken model. The Byzantine network of ‘partners’ also throws up a mystery investor.

“Cartrefi Conwy set up a subsidiary in 2015 called Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company). Then, in May 2018, Creating Enterprise went into partnership with Brenig Developments Ltd to form Calon Homes. (Assets at 31 May 2019 £37,853.)

From the Creating Enterprise CIC accounts for y/e 31 March 2019. Click to enlarge

As I wrote back in November: “There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.”

When we look at the directors for Brenig Developments Ltd we find Mark Timothy Parry and Howard Rhys Vaughan. Both are also directors of Brenig Homes Ltd.”

Another horse out of the Brenig stable is Brenig Construction Ltd. Just another local building firm, run by local people . . . so impeccably local in fact that it could have come from League of Gentlemen.

But then, in December last year, a new director joined, a man who might have been taking his life in his hands if he’d turned up in the Royston Vasey shop.

I’m referring now to Yin Han, a Chinese businessman, presumably bringing a lot of yuan. For when I say Chinese businessman I do not mean that he hails from Hong Kong or Taiwan. Yin Han is a resident and citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

How did Yin Han and Brenig Construction find each other? What do we know about him? I guarantee he did not get involved with Brenig Construction without permission from back home. And that means the Communist Party.

These subsidiaries and partners, together with the loans and investment, are needed to build private housing for sale on the open market.

But housing associations are now private entities, so why do they need subsidiaries and partners to build open market housing? Surely they could do it in their own names?

Of course they could, but that would make it too obvious and probably jeopardise the public funding. So we have this charade of public money for social housing being given to RSLs and then filtered through intermediaries to build private housing.

And the ‘Welsh Government’ is a willing party to this deception.

‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’

As a student of history, I’ve always loved Palmerston’s quote: “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business – the Prince Consort, who is dead – a German professor, who has gone mad – and I, who have forgotten all about it.”

It comes to mind when I see the term ‘affordable housing’. Because there’s a great deal of confusion as to what it means.

It’s important to get a definition because it’s what RSLs now claim to be building, and what the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ is funding.

Is the ‘Welsh Government’ really proud of these figures? And ‘Rent to own’ in fact offers people a share of a lease! Click to enlarge

When I contacted the ‘Welsh Government’ I was referred to a publication wherein was found . . .

“The concept of affordability is generally defined as the ability of households or potential households to purchase or rent property that satisfies the needs of the household without subsidy (further guidance is provided in the Local  Housing Market Assessment Guide) 7 This could be based on an assessment of the ratio of household income or earnings to the price of property to buy or rent available in the open market in the required local housing market area.”

Which is interesting, and for two reasons.

If the concept of affordability is based on what local people on local wages can afford, then why is ‘affordable housing’ not reserved for those same local people? I ask because all the term means in practice is that a few properties in a development are labelled ‘affordable’ – but still put on the open market.

And if a small number of properties in a development are classed as ‘affordable’ then it must follow that the majority of the properties are regarded as unaffordable to most locals. So why are we building so many properties – with public funding! – beyond the reach of most local buyers?

The woolly term ‘affordable housing’ is just a fig leaf for the ‘Welsh Government’ and RSLs to disguise the fact that very little social housing is being delivered.

We are encouraged to believe that ‘affordable housing’ is for local people, or that it means social rented properties. Wrong.

CONCLUSION

This system, as I’ve argued before, is broken. It is broken because it consumes vast amounts of Welsh public funding for little or no Welsh public benefit.

Another cause for concern is that just as many third sector bodies are agencies of the Labour Party a similar picture emerges with housing associations.

In fact, housing associations and third sector bodies operate hand in glove, with the former housing the disruptive ‘clients’ of the latter, many of whom have been shipped into Wales. It’s collaboration like this that contributes to the problems we’ve looked at in Tyisha, Llanelli.

‘Welsh’ Labour’s little empire; stuffed with cronies and others dependent on political patronage and public handouts.

Take Wales & West, which I’ve referred to as Labour’s favourite. The CEO is Anne Hinchey, whose hubby Graham is a Labour Councillor in Cardiff. This explains why Wales & West has pulled down £100m in Social Housing Grant alone in the past decade.

And yet, let us remember that the reason the Office for National Statistics decided to put housing associations into the public sector was because there was so much governmental control!

As the June 2018 article from Inside Housing I reproduced above put it,

“In a letter to the Welsh Government sent yesterday, the ONS left open the possibility to reclassify individual associations as public should the level of state control increase.”

A strong case could be made for reclassifying a number of Welsh housing associations. Certainly Wales & West.

Where do we go from here?

I suggest that it starts with making it clear we do not want housing associations to build properties for sale to Home Counties retirees in Pembrokeshire, or to Manchester commuters in Denbighshire.

The sole duty of Welsh housing associations must be to deliver homes to Welsh people at sales prices or rents WE can afford.

If they are unable or unwilling to fulfil that role then I believe we should let our local councils provide social rented housing. Ensure they are well enough funded to provide decent accommodation to any and all local people wanting it. And make strong local connections the over-riding consideration in allocating those properties.

Then cut all funding to housing associations, which are, after all, private companies. Let them borrow from private lenders – as they are already doing – and cease being a burden on the public purse.

Whatever is decided, the present system is broken. Changes must be made. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, just think what we could do with the money saved!

♦ end ♦

 

 




Housing associations: subsidiaries, partners, etc

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

Social housing is an issue I’ve written about many times over the years, and I make no apologies for returning to the subject again. For the old problems remain and new ones are emerging.

The old problems are:

  • An ‘arms race’ among housing associations to build more and more properties (often where there is little local need) to deter predators from swallowing them up.
  • Certain housing associations being very close to the Labour management team in Cardiff docks with this closeness giving them an unfair advantage over competitors.
  •  I say ‘competitors’ because, unlike the old system of the local council being the major or sole provider of social rented housing in a locality, we now have any number of housing associations operating in the same area.
  • Social tenancy allocations in Wales being made on an Englandandwales basis.

WARNING: This report gets complicated given all the players and different commercial entities. So sit up straight and pay attention!

‘BUILD THEM AND THEY WILL COME’

Cartrefi Conwy Cyf came into existence in 2008 with the transfer of Conwy council’s housing stock. In 2015 it branched out with the creation of a subsidiary, Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company).

Creating Enterprise CIC is now seeking ‘new income streams’ on the north coast, an area where north west England likes to dump its social problems.

What could possibly go wrong?

From the Creating Enterprise CIC Accounts. Click to enlarge

And Creating Enterprise CIC would appear to have found new sources of income, for the latest accounts tell us that turnover increased by over 700% between 2017 and 2019. That is impressive.

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As stated, Creating Enterprise is a subsidiary of Cartrefi Conwy (and many or even most of its ’employees’ may be Cartrefi Conwy tenants) that maintains and upgrades Cartrefi Conwy properties. Nothing unusual in that, many housing associations have in-house maintenance teams.

But there’s not much profit in such an arrangement, it’s just a housing association giving work to a wholly-owned subsidiary. The only way to make money is for the subsidiary to branch out. Which is what has happened with Creating Enterprise CIC.

But now it gets a bit complicated.

For while Companies House confirms that Creating Enterprise CIC exists, and with a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy that confirms CE’s subsidiary status, there is another Companies House entry for Creating Enterprise CIC, linking it with Calon Homes LLP. Explained in the panel below taken from Creating Enterprise CIC’s accounts.

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As you’re read, the other partner in Calon Homes LLP is Brenig Developments Limited. There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.

Curiously, there is another, and different, Companies House entry for Brenig Developments Ltd suggesting that it’s a dormant company. To confuse matters further there is also a Brenig Construction Limited and a Brenig Homes Ltd. (None of which should be confused with Brenig Fish & Chips of Tregaron. Pass the vinegar!)

First question: Why did Cartrefi Conwy Cyf, via Creating Enterprise CIC, go into partnership with a dormant company?

Second question: There is an outstanding charge against Brenig Homes Ltd with Kennah Motor Credit Ltd, of Cheshire, a dissolved company. But why would a building firm seek credit from an auto finance company?

Third question: This report from Wales247 in September tells us that Calon Homes is building 11 houses in Middlewich, Cheshire. Why is a company half-owned by a publicly-funded Welsh housing association building private dwellings in England?

Fourth question: The architects involved with Calon Homes’ 111 Conwy properties mentioned in the Wales247 report are Base Architecture and Design, which is expanding. Does this (from the report I’ve linked to) give the game away, “Conwy is a thriving area with a lot of development and investment going on, particularly along the A55 corridor through to Anglesey,”

Fifth question: Why do we also read of Base Architecture and Design, “Its clients in the region include Brenig Construction, one of North Wales’ leading civil engineering and construction companies”? At 31.10.2018 Brenig Construction Ltd had a net book value of just £84,637.

Sixth question: This report, from last Thursday, tells us that Creating Enterprise is “in partnership with Norfolk-based Beattie Passive”. The only Beattie Passive company in Norfolk is Beattie Passive Norse Ltd. This company has ‘accumulated losses’ of £4,589,441. That’s £4.5m.

What we have here is a publicly-funded housing association – whose assets consist primarily of a stock transfer of council housing – playing at being a private company through subsidiaries and partnerships. Cartrefi Conwy justifies building properties for commuters, retirees and others from over the border by arguing that its share of the profits from this work will be used to build social housing.

But is that a sensible model? Let’s say Cartrefi Conwy lends Creating Enterprise CIC one million pounds that in turn is lent to Calon Homes to build in partnership with a private company. And let’s say that the profit on that project is £500,000. After being split with the private developer, and after admin, staff, and other costs are taken out by Creating Enterprise and Calon Homes, Cartrefi Conwy might be lucky to get back £50,000 for social housing. So why not just spend the original £1m on social housing?

The true purpose is building open market housing along the A55 commuter/retirement belt. And when we realise that most of Cartrefi Conwy’s other efforts go into providing care homes, retirement bungalows and flats, it becomes clear that it’s just an agency for the further colonisation of Wales.

OLD AND NEW

In the introduction I listed the established problems with ‘social housing’ in Wales. Having got this far you’ll know that the new problems stem from diversification.

But the problem is not confined to Cartrefi Conwy. Let’s go to the other end of the country and look at Mill Bay Homes in Pembrokeshire, a private company and a subsidiary of Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing). Despite being a private company Mill Bay has a “revolving credit facility with the parent”, Ateb.

Which in practice means that money held by Ateb that should be used to provide social housing is loaned to Mill Bay to build homes for ‘investors‘, ‘retirees‘ and others, including holiday home buyers. (Check those links.)

Clearly, the system in Pembrokeshire differs from that up north in that instead of entering into a partnership via a subsidiary with a private company, with the subsidiary getting 50% of the profits, Ateb loans money directly to in-house subsidiary MBH, which does the building.

From the Mill Bay Homes accounts 2019. All that money could have been spent on social housing rather than on building holiday homes and properties for investors and retirees. Click to enlarge

But much of Mill Bay Homes’ profits will be eaten up by its own running costs, for it is after all a separate company with its own staff and overheads. Unless MBH is selling its properties at greatly inflated prices it’s difficult to see how it can ever repay Ateb.

An example of how Mill Bay Homes operates is its St Davids’ development. Due to the demand from England for property in and around St Davids most locals experience great difficulty in finding a place to buy at a price they can afford.

Yes, a small number of properties on the new development are reserved for locals (with a very narrow definition of ‘local’) and a small window in which to apply. Otherwise, it’s “32 executive dwellings . . . 2, 3 and 4 bedroom bungalows.”

Executive homes and retirement bungalows. Just what local first-time buyers are looking for!

Mill Bay claims to be meeting the local need in St Davids but in reality it’s just capitalising on the external demand.

But nobody cares, for there is neither regulation nor oversight of housing associations.

An example would be the ‘Welsh Government’s ‘Shared Ownership Wales’ scheme – a disguised form of leasehold – that should only be offered by Registered Social Landlords (registered with WG); yet it’s available in St Davids and elsewhere through Mill Bay Homes, a private company that is not a RSL.

And all the while we hear politicians complain about the lack of social housing, and how we must build more – so more money is given to housing associations . . . and spent on ‘diversification’.

Let’s face it, we are in the same position with ‘social housing’ as we are with the third sector – keep a problem alive and publicised in order to keep the funding flowing. If housing associations wanted to meet the demand for social housing – i.e. for good quality rented accommodation – then they would not be launching subsidiaries.

The bottom line is that social housing in Wales has been privatised, and to pretend otherwise is deceitful. I tried to explain it last year in The Privatisation of Welsh Housing Associations.

Click to enlarge

Finally, those who think that it’s better to see private housing built by Welsh housing associations than by major English companies should think again. For they don’t challenge Persimmon, Wimpey, and the rest, they complement them by building the smaller developments that the volume builders can’t be bothered with.

The social housing system in Wales is broken, it no longer serves its original purpose. So we need a new system to provide affordable rented accommodation.

♦ end ♦

 

Housing in Colonial Wales: The Sun King teams up with The Godfather

Let’s begin by setting out my stall: Housing in Wales is dysfunctional, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful of public funding, damaging to Welsh community life, and undermines Welsh nationhood.

It’s a great system . . . but not for the Welsh.

LE ROI SOLEIL

In an earlier post (scroll down to the section ‘Who will buy . . . ‘), we met Dr Glen Peters. An interesting character, Glen.

Before moving to Wales he was a senior partner in PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, those pillars of the City of London that give glowing reports of financial health to firms about to head up Shit Creek and when they’re not doing that they’re extolling the probity of corrupt third world regimes.

The ‘Big Four’ will do and say anything for money. Making Peters a man with an interesting past.

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He seems to have arrived in Wales in 2010 and in December of that year he founded Western Solar Ltd.

He also launched himself as the beneficent and culture-loving squire with Menter Rhosygilwen, a charity (No 1139848) which, to judge by its programme, at least recognises it is in Wales. Rhosygilwen being the name of his mansion not far from Cilgerran in north Pembrokeshire; with performances taking place in Neuadd y Dderwen, which looks like a set for Game of Thrones. Neuadd y Dderwen must have cost a few bob.

Being a man who understands money it didn’t take Glen long to realise how easy it is to screw grants out of the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. For it came to pass that he received £141,000 to turn an old cowshed into a small factory turning out units for eco-friendly homes.

Six such properties were built in the off-the-beaten-track hamlet of Glanrhyd, a development called Pentre Solar. We are told that these were built specifically for the Ateb group (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing) who took all six of them for £900,000. Money it had been loaned by the aforementioned and self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

But given that there is no worthwhile oversight or monitoring of ‘loans’ it’s unlikely this money will ever be repaid. As far as the ‘Welsh Government’ is concerned, once the money is gone, and the boxes are ticked, that’s the end of it.

Though there are a number of curious features about this deal.

Let’s start with the fact that in a number of places it’s claimed that these eco homes were built for half the price of traditional brick-built homes. For example, in this video, at 0:32, by Peters himself. Yet Ateb paid £900,000 for six properties, £150,000 per home.

To build a traditional 2/3-bedroom, semi-detached house in north Pembrokeshire would cost £90,000 – 120,000. Which means that if Glen Peters is right, and he could build his houses for half that, then he made a very tidy profit when Ateb paid him £150,000 per house.

Something else that troubles me is that housing associations like Ateb already receive millions of pounds every year from various funding streams, so why was it necessary to bung them another £900,000? Because I’m damn sure the Tŷ Solar properties were not bought to meet a pressing local demand out in the middle of nowhere.

Question 1: Can Ateb guarantee that the houses at Glanrhyd, paid for with Welsh public funding, were allocated to Welsh people?

Whatever the answers, a lot of moolah has already gone west and there’s more on the way. Next up is a 15-home ‘garden village’ for Boncath. Why Boncath? Well it might be because that’s where Victoria Beard lives. ‘Who’s she, Jac?’ you demand.

Well, she appeared on the website a few months back (before I wrote my earlier piece), as one of the locals connected with, or employed by, Menter Rhosygilwen. Though I’m told she was actually employed by Pembrokeshire county council before branching out on her own with Foresight She Ltd, yet another ‘consultancy’ that seems to have gone the way of all flesh.

BURRY PORT

Also mentioned in the piece I linked to regarding Boncath is “a 30-unit scheme of affordable homes already lined up for a site in Carmarthenshire on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council”. To be specific, this development is in Burry Port, to the west of Llanelli.

For some reason Burry Port has been targeted for excessive development in recent years with hundreds of new houses built, almost all of which have been bought by English buyers, mainly retirees or those close to retirement. Yet more housing is planned – and Plaid Cymru welcomes it!

Councillor Alun Lenny is quoted as saying, “There’s 103 first-step homes here, affordable homes, all low cost homes”. Yet the WalesOnline report in which he’s quoted tells us: “There will be eight different house types on the new development, mainly two and three-bedroom homes, as well as some with four bedrooms, with the majority semi-detached.” And goes on to say: “21 of the 103 homes will be offered as affordable housing for sale or rent”.

Four-bedroom houses are not “first-step homes”.

Plaid Cymru really hasn’t got a clue. They don’t even understand what they’re giving planning permission for. No wonder Wales is in the mess it is. Though it would have been nice if the report had told us who plans to build these houses, and how much public funding is involved.

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Question 2: For Plaid Cymru. Can you offer any promises that these “affordable homes” will be bought by local people and can you guarantee that the properties in the social housing “ghetto” (mentioned in the report) will be allocated to local people?

The development with which Glen Peters is involved in Burry Port, the “divided town which didn’t want any more new homes”, is for 32 homes to be built by Cartrefi Croeso Cyf., which we looked at in the previous post. Let’s remind ourselves what we read there.

The managing director of Cartrefi Croeso is Robin Staines, and the sole directors are Jacob Morgan and Sarah Wendy Walters, also employees of Carmarthenshire county council. Which effectively means that this company belongs to Mark Vincent James, the Cardiff Bay property magnate who doubles up as CEO of Cyngor Sir Gâr.

But why would a council with its own housing department need Cartrefi Croeso? I suppose an obvious answer might be that the county can no longer build new council housing. But then, there are any number of housing associations operating in the county – shouldn’t they be filling the gap? The obvious answer to that is, yes they should. And to all intents and purposes they are.

But Mark James doesn’t control those housing associations.

‘STICK ON A FEW SOLAR PANELS – BINGO!’

Even so, let’s not be too hard on Jamesie Boy, because he’s received great encouragement from (the aforementioned and self-styled) ‘Welsh Government’; that shower is providing the funding for what appear to be the retirement properties Cartrefi Croeso plans to build.

Specifically, the funding comes from the Innovative Housing Programme, launched in February 2017. In its first year the IHP was restricted to Registered Social Landlords and councils, but in its second year – beginning April 2018 – it was open to private companies, which explains the involvement of Cartrefi Croeso. For although it’s owned by the council it is a private company and registered as such with Companies House.

Though it seems to have given itself a wide remit, as shown in the panel below, taken from the Companies House entry. The first two categories, 41100 and 41202, obviously cover the Burry Port development, but the other two suggest it might be worth keeping an eye on Cartrefi Croeso.

click to enlarge

Over three years the Innovative Housing Programme budget will shell out £90m.

We’ve come a long way from the £141,000 given to Glen Peters to convert the old cowshed. We’ve considered a lot of Welsh public funding, and you have to ask how much benefit Welsh people and Welsh communities will derive from this expenditure. As I mentioned earlier, the properties being built by Mark James Cartrefi Croeso in Burry Port are almost certainly retirement properties.

Given the excessive housebuilding the town has seen in recent years, and the buyers’ profile, I can’t help wondering if someone, somewhere, has designated Burry Port a retirement settlement. Perhaps the locals should be informed?

Question 3: For Lesley Griffiths. Why is your self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ giving public funding to private companies to build new homes – for which there may be no local demand – when you already fund countless housing associations and there is already a private sector building open market dwellings?

Almost inevitably, there are hidden costs to the Welsh public purse, for in this article from last week’s Tivyside Advertiser Glen Peters tells us that to build his houses, “Welsh tree trunks will arrive at one end and houses will emerge from the other” . . . which will mean paying ‘re-wilders’ and the like to plant more trees.

click to enlarge

As I said earlier, it’s a great system . . . but not for us.

LABYRINTHINE, CORRUPT, COLONIALIST

Looking at the wider picture, housing in Wales is an absolute shambles. I could write a book about it, but it would be too depressing, it would drive me to drink. One example, again from the Wild West, might serve to explain what I mean.

Ateb has a subsidiary named Mill Bay Homes. I’ve written about Mill Bay Homes more than once, and had threats from solicitors for suggesting that everything was not above board. Just type ‘Mill Bay Homes’ into the Search box at the top of the sidebar.

Since then, Mill Bay Homes has gone entirely private, is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, and yet is still somehow part of the Ateb group. But despite being a free-flying bird MBH still owes the parent company £5.5m, secured with a floating charge over everything MBH has.

Much of this five-and-a-half million pounds – and the debt was larger at one time – is public funding given to Ateb, then transferred to Mill Bay Homes for it to build nice properties in Pembrokeshire for investors, retirees, and those seeking a holiday home.

How about that – holiday homes funded from the Welsh public purse!

Even if you’ve never heard of Walter Scott’s Marmion I bet you’ll be familiar with “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”. Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that it’s apposite to the relationship between the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, the Ateb group and Mill Bay Homes.

To explain how convoluted and confusing it can all get when publicly-funded bodies spawn private companies let us hie to Cilgerran, just a short distance from Glen Peter’s sumptuous pad.

There we find properties being built by Mill Bay Homes. Here’s one for sale with John Francis and it offers ‘Shared Ownership’ (actually a shared lease). Ateb, the Registered Social Landlord, is allowed to offer Shared Ownership, but Mill Bay Homes, the private company, is not.

Question 4: I throw this one out for anyone. Seeing as private company, non-RSL, Mill Bay Homes should not be offering buyers ‘Shared Ownership’ why is it allowed to do so?

Maybe I’m wasting my time, for as I say, there is no effective monitoring or oversight of housing associations.

It’s a jungle that gets more impenetrable every year. But that’s how housing associations like it. That’s how the ‘Welsh Government’ likes it. And it’s certainly how those who control devolution in Wales like it. You and I are not supposed to understand . . . or question.

But sod it, because I’m going to end with some questions for the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’:

  • Why do you allow the building of so many houses Wales doesn’t need, at prices most Welsh people can’t afford, and often in places where these properties are not needed?
  • Given the way housing associations operate tens of million of pounds every year is spent housing people with no Welsh connections, so how difficult would it be to insist on a five-year residency qualification for social housing, and then divert the money saved to the NHS and education?
  • Why do you not ban publicly-funded bodies from setting up private subsidiaries that often receive indirect public funding and yet over which you have even less influence than the parent?
  • If you’re serious about encouraging the private sector why threaten it with these private subsidiaries that also have the unfair advantage of insider knowledge?
  • Will you examine the relationship between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes and all similar publicly-funded bodies with private subsidiaries?
  • Can you offer a definition of ‘affordable housing’?
  • Thinking of Burry Port, do you ever consult local people over plans for their community – real locals?
  • Explain how it is in the interests of Wales to attract an elderly population from outside of Wales?
  • Will you revisit the £900,000 given to Ateb to purchase six properties from Western Solar Ltd that – if the builder is correct – cost less than half of that sum to build?
  • Why do we have so many housing associations competing with each other, duplicating each other’s role, and all in receipt of public funding? How much do you estimate could be saved from mergers, simply on chief executives’ salaries?
  • What do you intend doing to help those in the south east currently being outbid in the local property market by commuters from Bristol?
  • Why don’t you relieve local authorities of the hassle by imposing a national 200% council tax on all second homes? And close the loophole.
  • Can you guarantee that there are no properties sold as holiday homes that were built with public funding, or bought using one of the many schemes you offer to help people buy a home?
  • Even though you’ve had twenty years, why have you found it impossible to develop a housing sector attuned to and serving the needs of Welsh people?

♦ end ♦

 

Shorts 16.07.2018 (Well it is summer!)

I’m taking a wee break from the Williams-Partridge gang, but I shall return to them, you can count on it. Weep for Wales 6 is already forming itself in the old Jac noggin.

But as the Walrus said, The time has come to talk of many things . . . but we shall not stray far from my favoured themes of shysters and charlatans, colonialists and their facilitators.

THE GREEN, GREEN PARTY OF HOME (WHICH IS NOT WALES)

There is in Wales a political grouping calling itself the Wales Green Party. Over the years many people – myself included – have pointed out that despite the name it has no legal existence, being merely part of The Green Party (of England). Scotland has a separate party.

Those of a masochistic bent may choose to read some of my previous offerings on the subject: Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of EnglandandWales, More on the Green Party of EnglandandWales, Green Party of EnglandandWales, Wales Region AGM 2015.

This question of whether there is or should be a separate Welsh party has bedevilled the Greens in Wales for some years and so it was recently decided to lance the boil by having a vote on whether to become wholly independent or remain part of the Green Party (of England).

The result is in and 64.8% voted to remain part of the Green Party (of England), though the party leader in Wales, Grenville Ham, favoured treating Wales with respect by forming a separate party.

This result does not surprise me. The Greens I’ve met in my area, and others I know of who’ve moved to rural parts of Wales, tend to offer a ‘We know best’ kind of ‘enlightened’ colonialism. No less offensive when delivered by some malodorous little twat with a 2:2 in mycology than when it’s barked by the District Officer wearing shorts with a razor-sharp crease.

What I’m saying is that, in Wales, most Greens are English arrivals (many of them just passing through). This explains why – unlike Scotland – we do not have a separate and native Green Party. This also explains the vote I’ve just reported.

Greens in Wales must now stop the pretence that there is a Wales Green Party. There is not. What we have in Wales is the regional branch of The Green Party of England. Calling it the Green Party of England and Wales is no improvement, especially when we remember the position in Scotland.

Those who want a Welsh Green Party, those who wish to prioritise the Welsh national interest, had better do some hard thinking. A new, genuinely Welsh Green party could resonate with Welsh voters far better than the Green Party of England has done hitherto.

It could hardly do any worse.

WHO WILL BUY MY LOVELY HOUSES? – THE ‘WELSH’ GOVERNMENT OF COURSE!

And so to Pembrokeshire, which attracts a disproportionate number of those malodorous little gits with a 2:2 in mycology. But on a higher plane, far removed from the darkness and the copious amounts of shit, we enter the realm of Sol Invictus.

And it’s there, basking in the wealth he bestows, that we find Dr Glen Peters. Formerly of bean-counters PwC but now ensconced at Rhos y Gilwen mansion near Cilgerran, where he brings culture to this benighted corner of Wales through Menter Rhosygilwen. You can even get married there.

Courtesy of Linkedin, click to enlarge

But his real interest is making money through his company Western Solar Ltd. There is a solar farm on his land and when he’s not harvesting all that lovely sunshine on his estate he’s building houses . . . to harvest more life-giving sunshine. His footnote in history being assured with Pentre Solar, an ambitious scheme at Glanrhyd.

But ere it started, the ‘Welsh’ Government bunged Peters £141,000 for a factory in which to manufacture sections for the houses. Since then, the ‘Welsh’ Government has loaned the Ateb Group, formerly Pembrokeshire Housing, £900,000 to buy the six houses from Peters.

Yet according to this account in the Guardian, just four of the properties, ‘have “affordable” rents and are being offered to people on Pembrokeshire county council’s housing register who have lived in the area for five years’.

So how many of these houses are for social housing, six or four?

Either way, Glen Peters has made a tidy wodge from the ‘Welsh’ Government and a factory paid for out of public funds has been added to his property portfolio. Yet his Linkedin profile boasts that he has been “Eco Entrepreneur of the Year”.

An entrepreneur (for which there is no word in Welsh, incidentally) is someone who takes risks with his own money. How the hell can anyone be an entrepreneur when he’s feather-bedded by the public purse?

The Solar Village website makes a big thing of “employing locals”, yet closer inspection reveals that these people are ‘local’ only in the sense that they’ve moved to Wales. Just like so many other schemes in the Welsh countryside, especially where environmentalism is concerned, we see Welsh public money funding social engineering.

As for Glanrhyd, it’s a hamlet on a B road some five kilometres from Cardigan. I’m not sure how good the public transport links are, but even if they’re good Ateb might have had trouble finding tenants. Seeing as the houses are now occupied I’d like to know who lives in them, how many are social tenants, and how local those people are to the area.

Worth asking because the Ateb Group is a curious beast, a Community Benefit Society that includes Mill Bay Homes Ltd. I don’t understand how a private company can shelter under the umbrella of a Community Benefit Society; but then, all sorts of things are permitted, or overlooked, in the strange world of Welsh housing associations.

For example, Mill Bay Homes is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, which is hardly surprising seeing as it builds and sells property on the open market like Wimpey and Redrow; but it has over the years borrowed millions from its publicly-funded parent company Pembrokeshire Housing which now – re-branded Ateb – is buying properties from Mill Bay!

It’s all very complicated. Deliberately so.

Does that bank of solar panels feed into the grid when demand is low? If so, who gets the money? Picture courtesy of WalesOnline. Click to enlarge

Western Solar Power has plans for more villages. Another project lined up is for Coastal Housing in sun-blest Ammanford. Where no doubt the public purse will further enrich Glen Peters and Coastal Housing will have properties that attract positive publicity in obscure publications, but they’ll be expensive to build and might not serve the purpose used to justify the public funding – affordable homes for local people.

Glen Peters is obviously on a good thing. All he has to do is keep pressing the right buttons and the money pours into his bank account. But I can’t help thinking that social housing could be delivered a lot cheaper, in places locals want to live, which is why I’m sceptical of Pentre Solar and similar projects.

Bottom line is, it might be acceptable for Glen Peters to enrich himself playing the enlightened squire, and employing his cronies – but not with our money!

BERYL’S IN PERIL!

No doubt you’re all aware that there’s a by-election campaign under way in Cydweli’s Mynydd-y-Garreg ward. In fact, there are only two wards in Cydweli; Mynydd-y-Garreg and Castle, which might make life easy for some, but for your average punter, having eight or nine community councillors for his or her ward must cause confusion.

The council is Labour controlled, with a few Independents, one Tory, one Plaid Cymru, and Ukip represented by Gary Beer of Swansea Quality Lettings Ltd. (That has a certain ring to it, no?)

Standing for Labour in Mynydd-y-Garreg is Beryl-Ann Williams. I’m told her election literature is in English only, a great disappointment to see this on the home turf of the late Ray Gravell, where 62% of the working age population speaks Welsh . . . but only 21% of retired people. Now I wonder why that is?

Beryl-Ann works in the third sector as an ‘art psychotherapist’. (No, honestly, I did not just make that up.) This psychotherapisting may be done at the Kidwelly Community Hub, which seems to serve as a publicly-funded but unofficial Labour Party clubhouse.

Beryl-Ann Williams, Lee Waters AM on the left and Nia Griffith MP on the right, with mayor Phil Thompson behind the MP.

This being the Llanelli constituency, where Plaid Cymru has self-destructed, and Tories have never been thick on the ground, her sole opponent is Independent Ronald Carl Peters-Bond, whose literature is bilingual and has a powerful message:

“Kidwelly Town Council’s focus has been on building a new office costing over £500,000, the overspend on which has now left it in serious financial difficulties. We need to stop the rot.” and “Currently over 80% of the tax you pay to Kidwelly Town Council goes on administration and keeping that shiny building.”

Can you believe that a Labour administration would waste money on such things? And overspend?

I look forward to hearing from distant Cydweli that Grav’s old stomping-ground has rejected a Labour/third sector blagger who seems to have no love for Wales and her heritage.

‘I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT . . . MUST BE SOMEBODY ELSE’S GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE’

Back in May I wrote about BikePark Wales, yet another example of Welsh assets being handed over to a bunch of strangers in order that they can enrich themselves. In this particular case it was Natural Resources Wales leasing a large area of forested land near Merthyr Tudful to a company with the absurd name of Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd operating as BikePark Wales.

Something that particularly worried me was the fact that this company felt it had the power to fine locals found on the land it was leasing, and that these fines could be collected on the spot by ‘marshalls’ (sic).

click to enlarge

A regular reader of this blog tried to get a number of politicians interested in this surely unacceptable behaviour; Labour and Plaid Cymru couldn’t be bothered and the only politician who came through was Mostyn Neil Hamilton, the Ukip AM for the Mid and West Wales Region.

Last week, in Plenary at the Assembly, Hamilton raised the issue with first minister Carwyn Jones, who professed complete ignorance. (Available here at 22:05.) Now put aside any antipathy you may have towards Ukip, or Hamilton, and consider the issue on its merits. And think about Carwyn Jones’ response.

In that irritating I’m-a-tidy-bloke-but-cleverer-than-you manner Carwyn Jones tried to laugh it off and almost seemed to suggest that Hamilton was making it up. But if what Jones said was right, then BikePark Wales is acting illegally. That being so, then surely something has now been done about it?

No. I’ve just checked the BikePark Wales website and it reads the same as it did before. Which suggests that Carwyn Jones and his management team really doesn’t care about such colonialist arrogance.

When strangers take over a country, exploit it for their own ends, when the indigenous population is elbowed aside, and when a collaborationist administration encourages and funds such behaviour, then that, my friend, can not be dressed up as ‘investment’, or disguised as an ‘economic strategy’.

It is colonialism; and to deny it is no different to the Green Party (of England) refusing to accept that Wales is a country in its own right, just an economically underdeveloped region of England or Britain.

By any criteria you care to apply Wales is a colony. What are you going to do about it?

♦ end ♦

 

Anti-Welsh Housing Associations

TO RECAP . . .

I have written many times about social housing in Wales, and of the many problems created by the more irresponsible housing associations. Here are just a few of the problems:

  • Unlike in Scotland, social housing providers in Wales are tied into an Englandandwales system. This results in our housing associations having to give priority treatment to people with no Welsh connections.
  • Many of those being housed by these routes will be ‘problem families’, or young tearaways, they might be drug and alcohol abusers, or they’ll be recently released from prison. These issues will inevitably place a burden on our health service and other facilities while also affecting the quality of life in many Welsh communities.
  • Wales has an ageing population. In a decade or so Wales will be the ‘oldest’ country in western Europe. This also places a strain on our NHS and other services which results in money being taken from education and other budgets. Yet many housing associations, particularly in the north, are using public funding to build housing for the elderly and the infirm brought in from outside of Wales.
  • Despite the recommendations of the Notional Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee social housing providers are still diversifying through unaccountable subsidiaries. This results, for example, in the insane situation in Pembrokeshire where The Pembrokeshire Housing Association is passing public money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes for MBH to build houses for sale on the open market!
  • Many Welsh housing associations lease or rent properties from companies based in tax havens. I explored this connection in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Yet no one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to care that Welsh social housing tenants could be living in properties owned by the Mafia, or ISIS.
  • Housing associations form secretive and costly links with Third Sector and other bodies. Some of these links are of questionable legality, of dubious benefit to Wales, but always costly to the Welsh public purse.
  • And that, perhaps, is the biggest worry of all. That no one with responsibility for overseeing social housing bodies, no one who funds them with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, seems to care how they operate. It’s left to self-evaluation and self-appraisal – box-ticking exercises which of course never find any problems. So everybody’s happy!

NEWS FROM THE NORTH

A taste for what follows may be obtained from the post Bits & Pieces of September 30th. Now here’s the latest:

Paul Diggory, the Chester-based former boss of ailing North Wales Housing, is now promoting himself – something he’s very good at – as a ‘housing and social enterprise freelance‘, which fits in nicely with his role as chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales.

Diggory gives us one of the two qualifications needed to run a Welsh housing association: either be English like him and the CEOs recently appointed to Valleys to Coast, Bron Afon and Hendre; or else have good links with the Labour Party, which accounts for the appointments of both Trivallis’ new £150,000 a year CEO and the new Board chair, Tracy Myhills, previously CEO at the Welsh Ambulance Trust. (How’d you like that on your CV!)

It should go without saying that if you’re English and a member or supporter of the Labour Party then you get to take your pick of which housing association you’d like to run. Being English but supporting some other party would be acceptable, but if you’re non-Labour Welsh, forget it.

This is how a one-party state operates.

Staying in the north for a minute . . . Not so long ago Labour’s most favoured housing association, Wales & West, built a big new office building in Ewloe, Flintshire, very close to the border.

Courtesy of Google, click to enlarge

Many thought at the time that a Cardiff-based housing association might be over-extending itself with this office block, but no, for since then W&W has not only swallowed up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, and branched out into Ceredigion, but is also hovering, vulture-like, over ailing HAs across the land.

One housing association viewed as sickly and about to fall is Pennaf. The Pennaf Group is based in Llanelwy (St Asaph) and includes the Clwyd Alyn housing association and Offa, a lettings and management service. A northern source tells me that a couple of factors may be contributing to make Pennaf look a tasty dish.

First, CEO Graham Worthington – also based in Chester! – has just announced his retirement; plus, it seems that Pennaf has been tardy in bringing its 4,500 properties up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, something it should have done by 2012.

The reason for Pennaf finding itself in this parlous position is I’m told due to spending too much time and money building care and residential homes – i.e. using Welsh public funding to bring in more retirees, so as to put extra strain on the NHS and social services that will result in education and other budgets being raided.

Only in Wales!

WALES & WEST WAY OUT WEST AND WAY OUT OF LINE

I’ve just mentioned that Wales & West snaffled up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, which operated mainly in Ceredigion, but W&W is also branching out in other ways.

When the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government handed Cantref over to Wales and West part of the dowry was valuable land at Plas Morolwg in Aberystwyth, overlooking the marina and with nice views out to sea. That site is now earmarked for 60 extra care flats. It’s doubtful if Ceredigion needs this development, certainly, it’s suggested that if it goes ahead it will jeopardise Mid Wales Housing’s Cylch Caron project in Tregaron.

But things are never that simple in Ceredigion.

Ceredigion council’s leader, Ellen ap Gwynn of Plaid Cymru, is under intense pressure over the closure of the Bodlondeb care home in Aberystwyth. Motivated by nothing more than a deep and heartfelt concern for the old biddies therein Labour and Lib Dems have taken to protesting against the closure, even recruiting that one-boy rent-a-mob and self-promoting little shite, Owen Jones.

It is further suggested that certain council officials such as strategy officers and planners who – how can I put this? – whose first spoonful might not have been puréed laverbread, are bending over backwards to help an anti-Welsh organisation like Wales & West.

An unholy alliance of Plaid Cymru and Welsh-haters.

Let’s now turn our attention to Lampeter, where Wales and West is very active, and plans yet more expansion. What follows is information for which I offer thanks to someone obviously well-informed about council business.

To begin with, there are widespread concerns in Lampeter that Wales & West is failing to evict its drug-dealing tenants in Bryn Road and North Road. But things are almost certainly going to get worse, for W&W is said to be in the process of buying the old Ffynnonbedr school building in order to build yet more flats in an area of low need. So Lampeter can expect more drug addicts to arrive. Lucky Lampeter!

UPDATE 08.11.2017: A pre-planning consultation notice appeared on the door of the old Ffynnonbedr school today. The architect Geraint John of Cardiff is making the planning statement/application in the name of Hacer Developments of Swansea.

This document – at 5.5 and 5.6 – makes great play of an agreement between Ceredigion council and Cantref in the early part of 2016 and seems to suggest that Cantref is the client. But of course Cantref was taken over by Wales & West over a year ago, but I can find no mention of Wales & West. Understandable given the drug dealers and others W&W has already brought into the town.

As if that wasn’t worrying enough for the good people of Lambed, I hear from a former weekend soldier that the old Territorial Army building – also on Bryn Road – is up for sale, and word is that W&W want to buy this as well. But I bet you’d guessed that already!

I’ve mentioned that Wales & West refuses to evict its lucrative drug-dealing tenants in Lampeter, and for this it has been congratulated by fellow Labour Party members in Shelter Cymru. Mutual back-scratching among Labour-run Third Sector bodies is so prevalent and blatant that they even try to make a virtue of it.

click to enlarge

Elsewhere the tale of evictions is different. For back in Aberystwyth, mainly local 16- and 17-year-olds are being evicted from Wales & West’s Tŷ Curig hostel  . . . to make way for new ‘guests’. Most of these replacements will arrive burdened with ‘issues’, but it is these very ‘issues’ that will allow W&W to charge a hefty fee for housing them – leaving the rest of us to pick up the bill.

Before leaving Wales & West for a moment I should also point out that the new office building wasn’t restricted to Ewloe, for there’s also the new HQ in Cardiff. This too may be in anticipation of expansion, with one of the potential victims rumoured to be Cardiff Community Housing Association, where CEO Kevin Protheroe is about to retire.

WHY DO I SAY ‘ANTI-WELSH’?

I try to be careful in using the right word, and that’s why I have no hesitation in describing Wales & West Housing – and others I’ll soon mention – as anti-Welsh.

Non-Welsh or un-Welsh might imply someone or something having nothing to do with Wales; it might suggest ignorance of Wales’ distinctiveness, possibly ambivalence; but by using anti-Welsh I mean awareness of the Welsh language, and other things that make Wales different, but deliberately seeking to denigrate and undermine them. This certainly applies to Wales & West, which is why I describe W&W as anti-Welsh.

Let’s start with the W&W website – it’s in English only. As is the website of another Labour-run housing association I’ve mentioned, Trivallis (formerly RCT Homes). This is no accident, for when it comes to the Welsh language most Labour Party members and supporters agree with Neil Kinnock rather than with Carwyn Jones.

Other HAs – Bro Myrddin, for example – rely on Google Translate. The CEO at Bro Myrddin is Hilary Jones, said to be an ‘ally’ of W&W, who is rumoured to be taking an interest in Hafan Cymru, reported to be in serious trouble due to its over-reliance on the Supporting People programme and EU funding.

But the point is that all Registered Social Landlords are legally required to give equal status to both languages, and also to have a Welsh language scheme in place. But the Regulation Managers employed to enforce these requirements obviously aren’t up to the job (or maybe they too missed out on the puréed laverbread).

Or does the fault lie with those above them? I ask because this recent advertisement for a Regulation Manager bizarrely and confusingly talks of “capability to work in both English and Welsh” but then says that Welsh is “not necessary“!

click to enlarge

This seems to be a case of going through the motions: ‘Look, we’ve got to say this about the Welsh language . . . but in practice it doesn’t really mean anything‘.

A concrete example of Wales and West’s contempt for the Welsh language came recently with its advertisement for a Development Officer in Newcastle Emlyn, with the advertisement in English only and no requirement to speak Welsh in an area where Welsh is widely spoken. Welsh is certainly the majority language among the native Welsh.

This advertisement is not an oversight, nor is the absence of a Welsh website. This is flaunting power. This is a bunch of Labour bigots, with the ‘Welsh’ Government behind them saying, ‘Fuck you, and your language!

How will this attitude contribute to Carwyn Jones’ one million Welsh speakers by 2050?

IMAGE CONFLICTING WITH REALITY

We are encouraged to think of housing associations as streamlined, twenty-first century replacements for the old local authority housing departments, but doing a much better job. In fact, they have so little in common that any comparison is invalid.

To begin with, councils operate within defined geographical areas, whereas housing associations are spread all over the country competing with each other and duplicating each other’s work. Competition and duplication that places a wholly unnecessary burden on the public purse.

This has obviously been realised, and the problem is being addressed by encouraging those housing associations that are most ‘reliable’ from a Labour Party perspective – which also happen to be the least Welsh in staff and attitudes – to expand and take over the others. Which has two main results.

One, it increases Labour Party influence in areas of Wales where the party has no MPs or AMs. Two, it encourages instinctively anti-Welsh organisations to expand into areas where the Welsh language is strong. Good for the Labour Party but a disaster for the Welsh language and for Wales

Another difference is that local authority housing departments would never have struck deals with outside agencies to import someone else’s criminals, paedophiles, drug addicts, problem families, etc. The reason being that councils had that link with their patch, that commitment to their people, and of course councillors needed to be re-elected. With housing associations such considerations and restraints are absent.

For housing associations are distant bodies, answerable to nobody, and can do what they damn well like. And because there’s little profit to be made from housing decent, law-abiding locals, but lots of money available if they inflict problems on small Welsh towns like Lampeter, that’s the model they follow.

A good source of income for many ‘Welsh’ housing associations

And while there are healthy profits for Wales & West and others from importing undesirables, once here they place an inevitable burden on local health and other services, and police resources, while causing misery and disruption to Welsh communities. In a different category, but having a similar effect on the Welsh public purse, are the retirees being brought into Wales, and this is no longer confined to the Costa Geriatrica.

All of which results in the Welsh public purse, which funds W&W and the rest of them, losing out again, and again, and again. And we are the public purse, you and I. It is we who lose out in having to endure inferior facilities and strained resources.

But the model followed by Wales & West is profitable. And the profits made, coupled with ‘Welsh’ Labour backing, allow W&W to undermine and then swallow up their smaller and weaker brethren, which will include responsible social housing providers sticking to what should be the role of housing associations – providing rented housing for local people.

And some day in the not-too-distant future, when towns like Lampeter and Aberystwyth are awash with drug addicts and criminals from God knows where, and there are only a few housing associations left standing, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will control them all.

Allowing ‘Welsh’ Labour, through its housing associations and other Third Sector bodies, to exert a control over Wales denied it by the ballot box. We shall have arrived at the one-party state.

Endgame.

♦ end ♦

Mill Bay Homes, Demographic Time Bomb, Police Transfers

I present here a trio of very interesting tales. The first is an update on an old favourite, Mill Bay Homes, the publicly-funded private house builder in Pembrokeshire which may now, finally, have gone straight. The second will cheer you up no end, for our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government has cracked the problem of ‘the demographic time bomb’ that has everyone else so worried. Finally, I offer a fascinating report into police transfers, and why some forces would rather clam up.

MILL BAY HOMES

To recap: Mill Bay Homes is a subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing. Both are Registered Social Landlords (or were until recently). Pembrokeshire Housing has received a great deal of funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government, many tens of millions of pounds in fact.

Mill Bay Homes has received no funding directly from the ‘Welsh’ Government, but some seven million pounds was transferred or ‘loaned’ by the parent company. This funding, we were assured, came from sources other than the public purse.

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A number of people, principally Wynne Jones of Cardigan, assisted by others (among whom I’m proud to number myself), have queried the Byzantine structure and operation of social housing in Pembrokeshire. Basically, what is the point of Mill Bay Homes, which builds open market housing, and even touts for ‘investors’ (i.e. buy-to-let landlords)? Or to put it another way, why is Mill Bay Homes, a company that builds no social housing, registered with the ‘Welsh’ Government as a Registered Social Landlord (RSL)?

As if the situation wasn’t complicated enough, Mill Bay Homes then branched out into what it calls ‘shared ownership’. (Read the brochure here.) If you scroll down the end you’ll see a section headed ‘Your Leasehold Agreement’ . . . that’s right, it’s not shared ownership at all, anyone getting involved will be buying the share of a lease.

It so happens that the Notional Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee recently looked into the governance of housing associations. Wynne Jones and I made submissions, though God knows what happened to them, the PAC never saw them and we never received a copy of the PAC report. Even so, Recommendation 11 is worthy of note.

I draw your attention to Recommendation 11 because, without any fanfare, or public announcement of any kind, Mill Bay Homes ceased to be a Registered Social Landlord on April 5th, yet will continue as “an unregistered Subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing” . . . but hang on, isn’t that the very thing the PAC warns against?

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Now those of us who take an interest in the Pembrokeshire social housing scene first became aware of Mill Bay Homes’ de-registration on August 8th (thanks to A. E.), and on that same day Wynne Jones e-mailed the ‘Welsh’ Government asking a number of questions on the status of Mill Bay Homes.

Wouldn’t ya know it! – just three days later, on Friday August 11th, Mill Bay Homes Ltd was registered with Companies House, as a private limited company. Which still leaves a number of questions to be answered.

  • Seeing as Mill Bay Homes ceased to be a Registered Social Landlord on April 5th did its registration as an Industrial and Provident Society with the Financial Conduct Authority end on the same day? (Most housing associations have IPS status with the FCA.)
  • Either way, what was the status of Mill Bay Homes in the period between April 5th and August 11th? Important, because of course it was still trading, building new homes, selling properties, offering ‘shared ownership’, etc.
  • What steps is Pembrokeshire Housing taking to ensure that the money it has ‘loaned’ MBH is repaid?
  • What steps is the ‘Welsh’ Government taking to ensure that the money is repaid?
  • Remembering the Public Accounts Committee’s Recommendation 11, is Mill Bay Homes Ltd still “an unregistered subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing”?
  • Will the ‘Welsh’ Government take steps to ensure that there is no repetition of the arrangement that saw a RSL spawn and fund a private house builder – that was also a RSL! – to compete with small local firms, but having the priceless advantage of unlimited financial support and ‘Welsh’ Government backing?
  • How long will it be until Pembrokeshire Housing is taken over by Wales and West, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s in-house, Labour Party-run housing association?

Finally, if you go back to the Companies House info on Mill Bay Homes Ltd, you’ll see that the address given for all the directors is Meyler House, St Thomas Green, Haverfordwest, which is the office of Pembrokeshire Housing.

Among those directors you’ll see Nigel Charles Sinnett, who is also the sole director of Ateb Building Solutions Ltd, Incorporated 3 January 2017, which is in the business of constructing commercial buildings. Ateb’s single, £1 share is held by the Pembrokeshire Housing Association Ltd.

The screen capture below is taken from the Pembrokeshire Housing Group’s strategic plan 2017 – 2022. You’ll see that Ateb Building Solutions Ltd is listed as being currently dormant.

So, on the one hand, we see Pembrokeshire Housing divest itself of one embarrassment in the form of Mill Bay Homes, but it looks like there’s another about to emerge in the form of Ateb Building Solutions Ltd – yet another “non-registered social landlord subsidiary” of the kind the Public Accounts Committee warns against!

I think we can safely assume, in light of the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations, that the dormant Ateb Building Solutions Ltd will be permanently put to sleep ere it wakes.

If not, then the ‘Welsh’ Government will need to step in – and pronto!

WHY IT MATTERS

Over the years I’ve written a lot about Third Sector bodies and their subsidiaries, so let me explain why it’s important.

Let us begin by assuming that the wholly imaginary Llansiadwel Housing Association sets up a subsidiary called Wales Welcomes and is Delighted to House English Criminals and Sex Offenders. (Absurd, I know, but this is just an example.)

Let us further assume that WWDHECSO strikes it rich and makes lots of money. There now exists the temptation for those running the organisation to cut themselves adrift and go private, to make money for themselves – without repaying the public funding that got them started.

Alternatively, WWDHECSO might prove to be a financial disaster (which is usually the case), giving the parent body two options: inject public funding to keep the subsidiary afloat, or just write off the loss. One often leading to the other.

Whichever the outcome, publicly-funded subsidiaries and ‘trading arms’ are in unfair competition with local companies struggling to survive, companies not enjoying handouts from the public purse.

The Third Sector in Wales is like a black hole sucking in vast amounts of public funding and once in there no one knows what happens to it. Certainly, nothing ever comes back. And that’s how the ‘Welsh’ Government likes it.

Wales needs a truly independent investigator of public funding; independent of the ‘Welsh’ Government, independent of the Notional Assembly, independent of Wales.

DEMOGRAPHIC TIME BOMB

Unless you’ve been asleep for the past decade or two you’ll know that the world’s advanced economies are facing what is invariably described as a ‘demographic time bomb’. This piece from the Telegraph explains the problem well.

But while this dire fate awaits the rest of the first world, here in the alternative reality of Wales, an ageing population is viewed as a good thing. How know I this? Because I was told so in a letter I received from the ‘Office of the First Minister’.

This letter spelled it out: “There are almost 800,000 people aged 60 and over in Wales, over a quarter of the population, and, in the next twenty years, this is expected to exceed one million people. The fact that Wales is a nation of older people should be seen as something positive”.

The letter also tells us that we have an Ageing Well in Wales project, which is no doubt commendable, but the letter informs us that this programme “will challenge the assumption that frailty and dependence are an inevitable part of ageing”.

You read it here, folks! Not only have Carwyn and his cabinet of all the talents figured out a way for Wales alone to avoid the economic consequences of the demographic time bomb, but now we have the explanation – they’ve conquered the ageing process! Wales is become Shangri-La, and our mountain springs are fountains of eternal youth!

Which is a bit confusing, cos I see wrinklies everywhere. When I go to Tywyn of a morning I have to do my Phil Bennett impersonation to dodge the mobility scooters. Surely ‘Welsh’ Labour isn’t telling porkies?

You bet they are. For the letter also wants us to believe that, “After accounting for costs relating to pensions, welfare and health, older people make a net contribution worth over £1 billion a year to the Welsh economy, almost £3 million a day”.

Now if that’s true, then those clever Japanese have got it all wrong, and rather than fearing the demographic time bomb they should be encouraging elderly Chinese to move to Japan! Why aren’t politicians and economists from around the world flocking to Wales to learn from us – Carwyn’s defused the demographic time bomb!

At one point the letter-writer even invokes the United Nations with, “Article 12.1 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, which states that ‘Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence”. 

But the letter chooses to ignore that the United Nations also has something to say about indigenous cultures and identities. We Welsh are the indigenous people, not just of Wales but of Britain; we were here long before the Germanic forefathers of the English invaded. And before the Romans. As Woody put it, ‘This land is our land . . .’

Over the years I’ve read many letters from politicians and civil servants, heard speeches, attended meetings, followed discussions, read books, but never have I read such absolute bullshit as we find in this letter.

POLICE TRANSFERS

A while back, when I was taking a wee break, Big Gee wrote a piece that many of you enjoyed, though some of you found difficult to believe. He wrote about being arrested a few years back in Aberystwyth, handcuffed and taken to the police station, over a parking dispute, but specifically because he refused to speak English. Here is Careful Where You Park Your Car in Our Colonised Country – Dangers Lurk!

The arresting officer was a notorious arsehole named Michael Robert Westbury, who had transferred in to Dyfed Powys from the West Midlands force in England. ‘Laptop’, as he is known (small PC), once told colleagues that he had never read a book, and that his favourite reading was traffic regulations!

Anyway, after reading Big Gee’s article I got to wondering how many others there might be like ‘Laptop’ who had transferred in from England.

So on July 12th I sent FoI requests to all four police forces asking, “Please tell me how many of your serving officers have transferred to (force) from a force outside of Wales?” The same day I sent FoI requests to three ‘English’ police forces – Cumbria, West Mercia, Devon & Cornwall – asking, “Please tell me how many of your officers have transferred in from other police forces”.

I chose the three forces over the border because; West Mercia lies between Wales and the West Midlands, so if any officer is hoping to escape the hurly-burly of Brum then West Mercia should be his first option. While the other two areas should be attractive to officers seeking a cushy number prior to retirement in those areas.

At the time of writing, I have received five responses, three from Wales and two from England, and they tell us quite a bit, though perhaps not what I expected to learn. Let’s look at those responses one by one, the Welsh ones first.

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The response from Gwent, in e-mail format, came from Steve Woolway on behalf of Detective Inspector Andrew Tuck. After explaining that to comply with my request would be prohibitively expensive it said: “Please Note: that to obtain the information sought would mean a manual trawl of each officer’s personal record. It would take approximately 10 minutes per record to locate the information and due to the numbers this would take approximately 24 hours to complete”.

(The mathematicians among you will have worked out that 10 minutes per officer = 6 records per hour; and if we multiply that by the 24 hours quoted it gives us a total of 144. Yet there are over 1,000 full-time officers in the Gwent force.)

Dyfed Powys responded in a very similar vein, but quoting ” . . . a minimum of 15 minutes to review each Police Officers (sic) file/record to obtain the information in respect of your request”. Read it for yourself here.

From South Wales I received the following, rather bizarre response to what I’d thought was a very simple question. I have written again to South Wales Police in the hope that this time they will understand what I’m asking for.

From North Wales Police I have heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement. I have sent a reminder. Now let’s turn to the boys in blue over the border, who have been far more forthcoming.

The first to respond was West Mercia. The e-mail reply was simple, succinct, and told me exactly what I wanted to know – “REPLY: As of 14/07/17 the force has 390 current officers who have transferred in from other Police forces”.

Next was the Cumbria force (though the original reply got lost somewhere). This response was even more informative than the one from West Mercia. You’ll see part of it below, with the full document available here.

As yet I have received nothing, not an even acknowledgement, from the Devon & Cornwall Police, but a reminder has been sent. So how do the responses from different sides of the border compare?

Well, without being too unkind, either the Welsh forces are choosing to withhold information they could easily release or, if we take the answers from Gwent and Dyfed Powys at face value, then our police forces are much less efficient than their English counterparts. Do they have computers yet in Cwmbran and Carmarthen, or do they have to go down the cellars and bat away the cobwebs before struggling with rusty filing cabinets?

Another interpretation, certainly in the case of Dyfed Powys, could be that there are too many like Westbury transferring in, and this is not something they want the public to know about.

Of course, there will be those who’ll accuse me of ‘racism’ for even wanting to know the truth (and thereby hope to close down the debate). So let me spell out why I feel it’s important to know how many police officers are being transferred into Wales.

  • Every transfer into Wales is a career denied to a Welsh person, and this applies to all employment.
  • How can a police officer, who doesn’t know the area, who can’t pronounce the local names, who doesn’t understand anything of Wales, possibly do a better job than an officer recruited from within the local population?
  • Many of those who transfer into Wales, especially into rural areas, do so because they couldn’t ‘cut it’ in high-crime urban areas – do we really need such people? Should they even be in the police service?
  • With Welsh police officers there’d be much less chance of a Welshman or Welshwoman being arrested and treated like a criminal for speaking Welsh in a parking dispute.

UPDATE 15.08.2017: As I mentioned above, following the bizarre response from South Wales Police I wrote again hoping to make it clear what I was asking for. Well now I’ve had the second response, read it for yourself.

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Can you make sense of that reply? It claims that SWP does “not hold data on out of force transferees”. Yet we know that Dyfed Powys and Gwent hold such information . . . but won’t release it because, they claim, it would take too long and cost too much. Two English forces however have supplied the information without a fuss.

I’m being lied to.

So there you have it, three tales of contemporary Wales telling us what a mess our country is in. We are constantly lied to, and when we try to get information to see the facts for ourselves, either we are told more lies or else the information we need is denied us.

What a country!

end ♦

Care in the South West (or the lack thereof)

CARMARTHENSHIRE, KIDWELLY

A few years ago we learnt of the shocking case of the Satanist paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly and housed by Grwp Gwalia of Swansea (since merged with Seren to create Pobl). Their trial even made London prints such as the Daily Mail and Guardian.

In addition to being a sick and dangerous pervert, the leader of the gang, Colin Batley, was also an English patriot, with the Cross of St George flying from the flagpole on his front lawn. He was also described as a swaggering bully, often accompanied by his two rottweilers.

In the Daily Mail piece, one ‘local’ is quoted: “Nobody understands how so many of them could come down and all end up living in one place in the town”. Anyone who knows anything about social housing in Wales could have explained it to him.

As if to prove that lightning does strike twice, and yea! thrice . . . two more individuals with an unhealthy interest in children have recently been unearthed in Kidwelly.

The first was 71-year-old retired probation officer, Michael Nathan Cohen, who moved with his wife from Manchester some ten years ago. Though this WalesOnline report from early July prefers to describe him, both in the headline and the first line of the report, as a “Kidwelly man”.

Around the same time we heard about the case of 61-year-old retired civil servant Vincent Barbary – who has since been moved to Abertillery!

You’ll note that both men had pornographic images on their computers, and both were caught when police went to their houses, presumably acting on information received. Where did that information come from?

It would appear to be pure coincidence that these people from different backgrounds and locations – London, Manchester, Leicester – ended up in the same town of some 3,500 people. Though it does make you wonder if there might be some other factor at work.

CARMARTHENSHIRE, FALSE ALLEGATIONS

We now move down the road a bit from Kidwelly to Burry Port, to look at a very troubling case. This Llanelli Herald report from May 2015 will give you the background.

In a nutshell, some seven years ago Carina Burn, a 19-year-old autistic woman with communication difficulties, was locked away in a secure unit for six months because a carer alleged that she was being sexually abused – even prostituted! – by her parents Robin and Julia.

Two weeks after she was taken from her parents six police officers in plain clothes descended on the family home; it was searched, the computers were seized, and the parents arrested. Read more details here in this Daily Express account of the story.

Those responsible for inflicting this trauma were employed by Perthyn, a care company based in Swansea, which does work for a number of local authorities in both Wales and England.

Carina is now back with her parents and £30,000 in compensation has been paid; £26,000 from Carmarthenshire County Council, £1,000 from Dyfed Powys Police, and £3,000 from Dr Rowan Wilson, a man with no experience in the field who was called in by CCC to defend the original decision.

Carina Burn, Courtesy of the Daily Express

There is a strong suspicion that the case began when the parents decided to end the arrangement with Perthyn due to their fears that money being given for their daughter’s lunch was being pocketed. The very day that Perthyn was told the arrangement was ending the carers persuaded Mrs Burn to let them take her daughter swimming one last time. Carina did not come home.

Naturally, the parents want a full investigation into this case so I’d better not name the carer involved, the one who claimed that Carina was making the allegations, nor her supervisor, though I have both names. I am, however, prepared to name Trevor Stainsby, the local area manager for Perthyn, because what happened to him was quite remarkable.

Once the police dropped the case against the parents, and the focus shifted to Carmarthenshire County Council, who had employed Perthyn, Stainsby was recruited by the Council! Was this because Vinny, the Cardiff Bay property whizz, recognised Trev’s potential, or because he hoped to buy his silence? All might be revealed in the inquiry the ‘Welsh’ Government can no longer dodge.

The pressure might increase when the ITV Wales interview done with Robin and Julia Burn today is televised. Unless of course ITV was there on a fact-finding mission for someone else. These things happen.

CEREDIGION

In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales in which I looked at organisations operating under that generic label in the Wild West. It might be worth you reading that minor masterpiece of the blogger’s art before you push on with this update. But if you’re too bloody lazy! . . .

At various times the south west was blessed with (takes deep breath) The Ceredigion Care Society, The Dyfed Care Society, The Carmarthen Care Society, The Pembrokeshire Care Society.

All shared the same espoused objective: “1. The relief of poverty, the relief of sickness and the advancement of education and training amongst: A) Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution B) The families and descendants of such persons described in A) above C) Persons in need, hardship or distress.

In other words, they helped ex-cons. As I said in that original ” . . . of whom there must be hundreds every year returning to the mean streets and gang life of Ystrad Meurig, Marloes and Ponterwyd.” My way of saying that we can with some certainty conclude that most of those helped came from outside of Dyfed, and outside of Wales.

The Ceredigion Care Society has now changed its name to Cymdeithas Gofal / The Care Society, it has moved to a new address at 21 Terrace Road Aberystwyth, it serves Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys (though only Ceredigion funds CG), and it no longer claims to be helping ex-cons.

For “Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution” has now been replaced with what you see below.

Which is not to say that Cymdeithas Gofal doesn’t still help those who’ve been in trouble with the law, because one focus is on young tearaways leaving secure units. For “It is recognised that wherever possible the best place for a child is within her/his own family.” This explains young criminals turning up out of the blue at the Young Persons Project in Cardigan, often with their problem family in tow.

The latest accounts available are to year ending 31.03.2016. You’ll see that the numbers housed is quite commendable . . . especially in a rural county of some 70,000 people with no real social problems.

And keeping with the housing side of the business, we see that Cymdeithas Gofal has its own Estates and Lettings department. So let’s say you’ve got a few bedsits in Aber’, you can get in touch with CG and – bingo! – they’ll find you tenants and look after your property for you!

Couple that side of the business with the fact that one of the company’s income streams is administering the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Bond Scheme (£42,707 y/e 31.03.2016), and you have to wonder whether, in a town like Aberystwyth, with so many properties for rent, so many Houses of Multiple Occupation, providing a regular supply of tenants for local landlords isn’t the real purpose of Cymdeithas Gofal. That’s certainly a purpose it fulfils.

From Cymdeithas Gofal website ‘Estates and Lettings’ section

The services Cymdeithas Gofal provides, and the public funding it swallows up, are certainly not justified by the needs of the population indigenous to the area it covers. Looks to me like a nice little racket. Which might not bother me if I wasn’t paying for it. So are you.

PEMBROKESHIRE CARE SOCIETY

Now I bet the heading confused you. You’re asking, ‘Hang on, if Cymdeithas Gofal covers the south west and Powys, how can there also be a Pembrokeshire Care Society?’ Well, let Jac explain.

As with Cymdeithas Gofal, the Pembrokeshire Care Society is both a company registered with Companies House and a charity registered with the Charity Commission. This Pembrokeshire outfit is also in on the bond scheme, and wouldn’t you know it! – it also has its own lettings agency in Pathway Lettings.

What’s more, it’s doing pretty well, because the accounts for y/e 31.03.2016 tell us that the Pembrokeshire Care Society was sitting on reserves of £756,542, and that hoard was made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything.

Will funders, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government, now be asking for any of their funding to be returned? For it’s clearly not needed.

The bigger question is why public funding is being given to organisations like Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care to bring people into the area, often undesirables, for no better reason than to provide tenants for local landlords, while also running lettings agencies of their own on the side?

PEMBROKESHIRE, TRAGEDY

Seren Bernard was 14 when her body was found, near Milford Haven, in April 2012. This is one of the few facts we can be sure of in this case. Another is that she was living with foster parents and under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council.

A serious case review undertaken in 2013 concluded that Seren’s death “might not have been preventable”. Though at that review Seren’s mother, Sarah Pollock, insisted that the agencies involved had “willingly and knowingly exposed Seren to harm”.

At the inquest in June 2015, despite highlighting a number of cock-ups on the part of the Pembrokeshire authorities, the coroner had little alternative but to return a verdict of suicide. As a comment to the Western Telegraph from ‘Deryn Bawddwr’ put it, “The teflon coated PCC get away with it again”.

Then, last month, came the kerfuffle in Monkton, over the paedophile that locals believed had moved (or been moved) to the area. After the riotous night the protesters met outside the council offices in Pembroke Dock on July 13th, as reported here by the Pembrokeshire Telegraph.

(It may be worth pointing out that the council, the police, and just about every arm of officialdom, is staying schtum on the details of the Monkton affair. Refusing to even say who owns the property in question.)

Among those in the gathering outside the council offices was Seren Bernard’s mother. She spoke with Herald TV, watch her (4:32). Here’s a written account of what she said.

The allegation is that Seren Bernard was drugged and raped by a group of men, they may have been local, they may have come down from Swansea. What’s more, the solicitor acting for Mrs Pollock has names said to be the men responsible, names giver by Seren herself. The police also have these names.

Sarah Pollock, mother of Seren Bernard, courtesy of Western Telegraph

Now if this is true then it could explain Seren’s suicide, and her strange, uncharacteristic behaviour in the period leading up to her suicide, behaviour which Pembrokeshire council and its agencies were so keen to stress in seeking to exonerate themselves. It may also explain why Sarah Pollock was never given the full report of the serious case review in 2013.

As a man with grand-daughters I find this case harrowing. It seems clear to me that the truth is being withheld, and the reason for that may lie in the names on the list of alleged rapists. Are there prominent men named, and is that why justice is being denied (as in the never-ending ‘North Wales child abuse’ saga)?

I would love to see that list, and make my own enquiries.

CONCLUSION

We clearly have a dysfunctional system of ‘care’ in Wales, exposed by what we see happening in the south west.

On the one hand, we have ‘care’ agencies such as Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care receiving millions of pounds in public funding yet they seem to do little more than deliver up tenants – complete with bonds! – to local landlords, private and social. Also bringing in young tearaways plus paedophiles and other criminals.

On the other hand, we have the true care system, that which betrayed both Carina Burn and Seren Bernard. Not only that, but once the mistakes were exposed the machinery of cover-up swung into action. We saw it in Carmarthenshire with the council recruiting Trevor Stainsby of Perthyn, and in Pembrokeshire with the council preferring to blame a ‘suicidal’ child rather than wonder what drove her to suicide.

Now here’s a revolutionary suggestion. Why not ditch the landlords’ friends, Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care, and give the money to real care bodies, so that they can train staff and avoid another disaster such as befell the Burn family. Also use it to ensure that if there’s another Seren Bernard, that she’s helped rather than abandoned.

The system as it stands is indefensible, but it is being robustly defended: by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because it can’t admit that it’s pouring money down so many drains; by local authorities and their agencies – that can’t afford to admit the mistakes they’ve made; and by others making too much money out of this insane, corrupt system of public funding

For more money withdraw the blank cheque the ‘Welsh’ Government gives to housing associations, organisations deeply involved in the racket. Housing associations that in rural areas are building more homes than are needed locally and also building properties for sale on the open market – even advertising for ‘investors’!

♦ end ♦

Wales and West, Labour’s In-House Housing Association

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know about the takeover of Cantref, a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, a company with strong links to the Labour Party. For those catching up, I advise starting with the post Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged? To give some chronological marker, the takeover was officially registered with the Financial Conduct Authority 19 September 2016.

Even before the takeover I was receiving information from a person or persons I must assume were ‘in the know’. This information came by a number of routes, and was of varying degrees of confidentiality; what came as comments to this blog I can use in full, but information received by more discreet routes will require more circumspect treatment.

Let’s start with a comment from July 2015. Two points from it are worth noting. First, I believe the “something else going on” is a reference to the increasing suspicion that Cantref was about to be sold down the river. Second, the reference to “David Hedges of Cyngor Da” (Good Counsel/Advice) was a little confusing at the time because Hedges is a consultant and Cyngor Da is his company, yet he’s described as one of Cantref’s directors.

I shall return to our Dai, son of Glamorgan cricketer the late Bernard Hedges, later.

As we now know, Cantref was indeed sold down the river, taken over by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, ‘Welsh’ Labour’s favourite housing association. (Though the ‘Association’ bit was dropped from the name in 2012, now it’s just Wales and West Housing.)

As the takeover was going through I was being told about Wales and West “surveyors” evaluating Cantref’s stock and joking about taking down opposition party – mainly Plaid Cymru – placards and posters from WWH properties in the Cardiff West constituency during last year’s Assembly election campaign. There was no attempt to hide the fact that Wales and West Housing is ‘Welsh’ Labour by another name.

Something else I was hearing through other channels – though I confess I paid little attention at the time – was that Wales and West is linked somehow with the Mid Wales Housing Association. Now MWH inherited much of its stock, either directly or indirectly, from the Development Board for Rural Wales, that agency set up to ‘repopulate’ the five counties of central Wales. Part of the DBRW strategy included building homes for ‘key workers’, which in practice meant housing the complete workforces of relocating English companies or factories.

As I say, I should have paid more attention to this Mid Wales Housing reference if only because something interesting had emerged a few years earlier.

The nub of the story I’m referring to can be found in this news item from 2012 which tells that the Development Board for Rural Wales borrowed money at 14% interest over 50 years to build those ‘key worker’ houses, and when the DBRW (together with the Land Authority for Wales) was merged with the Welsh Development Agency in October 1998 that debt was transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Which if you think about it was odd . . . if not impossible.

Because the devolution referendum was held on September 18th 1997 and the first Assembly elections on May 6th 1999. Which means that when this transfer was effected in 1998 there was a devolutionary void. The transfer was therefore accomplished by Westminster, and this saw our incoming AMs confronted with a fait accompli. (Makes you wonder what else might have been dumped on our Assembly before it came into existence.)

In addition to the news story there was an interesting discussion on the blog of Montgomeryshire Tory MP Glyn Davies. Davies was the last chief executive of the DBRW.

Now we hear of deals being struck between Mid Wales Housing, Wales and West Housing and an unnamed English housing association to bring in tenants to Llandrindod. The ‘Paul Diggery’ referred to is Paul Diggory, currently chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales, and before that, for over 15 years, chief executive of North Wales Housing.

The ‘Ann Hinchy’ mentioned is Anne Hinchey, chief executive of Wales and West Housing, wife of Graham Hinchey, Labour councillor for the Heath ward in Cardiff.

Naturally, I tried to make enquiries about WWH developments in Llandrindod. Turning to Google I came up with this . . . but the link is broken. I was unable to find anything for Llandrindod on the Wales and West website, either.

So what ‘Jonny English’ seems to be saying is that Wales and West Housing, with its HQ in Cardiff, its new western office (the former Cantref office) in Castell Newydd Emlyn, it’s northern base on Deeside, is now trying to get a footprint in the middle by linking up with Mid Wales Housing and some English housing association.

Entirely predictable, because when we look at who’s running MWH we see the usual English mediocrities staring back at us from the Executive Group page. Without whom we’d still be living in caves.

I’m sure ‘Jonny English’ will read this, as will others with information, so please let me have more details, most importantly, the name of the English housing association involved in this scheme. I’d also appreciate clarification on the relationship between WWH, MWH and the English outfit (the one from England).

Let us return now to David Hedges. After being at Cantref when the transfer to Wales and West was arranged, the word on the street is that he’s now ensconced at Pembrokeshire Housing! What can it mean?

Again, for newcomers, or those with short memories, Pembrokeshire Housing is a body I have written about many, many times. Not just the parent body but also its bonny offspring Mill Bay Homes. I suggest you start here with Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing and then Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2.

The set-up is as follows. (And here I have to be careful cos writing about this lot has resulted in Jac getting solicitor’s letters.) Pembrokeshire Housing appears to be a normal housing association, grabbing its whack from the Welsh public purse to build social housing, much of which is allocated to persons and families having no previous connection with the area, or indeed with Wales.

Back around 2011 someone came up with the wheeze of using the dormant Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd to build properties and sell them on the open market. The name was soon changed to Mill Bay Homes. Now, after £7m+ has been transferred from parent to subsidiary, and houses built for retirees, investors, and friends of the MBH management, it seems that questions are – belatedly – being asked about this highly unusual arrangement.

This might explain the recent ‘retirement’ of Peter Maggs, Pembrokeshire Housing’s chief executive, and the arrival of David Hedges as – so ‘Dai the Post’ tells us – interim housing director.

Even allowing for the fact that within the social housing racket field in Wales there are bound to be connections and linkages, there seem to be far too many between Cantref, Pembrokeshire Housing, Wales and West and Campbell Tickell, of whom more in a moment.

As I said at the outset, David Hedges appeared in Cantref just before it was handed over to Wales and West Housing, like some harbinger of doom. Now we hear that he’s involved with Pembrokeshire Housing, and we’re also told that Wales and West is again manoeuvring into position to pounce. Interestingly, if we consult David Hedges’ Linkedin profile we see that he has worked for Wales and West. (If you can’t access the Linkedin profile click here for a downloaded version.)

UPDATE 26.01.2017: An anonymous source tells me that Dai Hedges is more of a fire-fighter than an assassin, sent in when things are going pear-shaped. Which may be true, but won’t be much consolation to those at Pembrokeshire Housing.

I’m reasonably certain that Jonny English is somewhere in the north, while Dai the Post is probably in the south west, so it’s interesting that both mention Campbell Tickell; which gives me the opportunity to explain for late arrivals where this management consultancy fits into the big picture.

Campbell Tickell is the company of Greg Campbell and James Tickell, both Labour Party supporters. And as his Linkedin profile tells us, Campbell has even worked for the party. Also note the reference to Common Purpose, that shadowy, some say sinister, Labour-leaning, globalist organisation for professionals in public life.

In addition to being rather suspect in its motivation and workings Common Purpose has a distinctly contemptuous attitude towards Wales. Check out this list of CP’s programmes for 2017. Scotland and Northern Ireland are covered, as are the regions of England (even individual cities in Scotland and England), but Wales might as well not exist. Search for ‘Wales’ on the Common Purpose website and you’ll turn up this little story about Chinese students on a flying visit to the Assembly in December 2015, nothing more.

Here we have a network that results in English appointees to many Welsh jobs. On the ground, it operates thus. ‘Welsh’ Labour helps its very own housing association to expand within Wales to the point where – already the largest – Wales and West Housing becomes dominant. (What’s the next stage?) To avoid accusations of cronyism it passes the recruitment process to Campbell Tickell, a Labour-supporting Common Purpose recruitment agency.

This procedure is not confined to housing associations, it can be found across public life in Wales, to the extent that I sometimes wonder if devolution is nothing but a scam to create a few thousand jobs for our neighbours in the £50,000+ salary bracket. Worth asking because devolution is achieving sod all for us Welsh.

This system satisfies two vaguely linked agendas.

On the one hand, it helps the Labour Party compensate for its declining electoral support by spreading the party’s influence, via Wales and West Housing and other agencies, into areas where many would rather Glasgow kiss a rough stone wall than vote Labour. Areas such as Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Powys.

But the system also serves the agenda of civil servants in Cardiff and elsewhere, who answer to mandarins in London, and whose overarching ambition is to keep a check on – even roll back – devolution. One of the best ways of achieving this to ensure that as few Welsh people as possible fill positions of authority. This creates the impression that we Welsh can do nothing for ourselves and also comes in useful when ‘consultations’ are undertaken to determine future policy direction.

All of which brings us back to my post earlier this month Housing Associations: Secret or Public?, in which I explained why Labour politicians and civil servants wish to maintain the secretive status of our public funds-guzzling housing associations. I suggest you read it.

And if you have a beef with a housing association then there’s no point in appealing to Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. Bennett was CEO of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella organisation for housing associations, from July 2006 until July 2014. Bennett is also close to ‘Welsh’ Labour, having been in business with a former Labour minister.

HE’S NOT AND HE IS (if you want to watch the video click here)

To take the explanation a stage further, we have a system of social housing, increasingly controlled at national level and managed at local level by people who know nothing about Wales and without any concern for – or even contemptuous of – Welsh identity, using vast sums of Welsh public funding, and regularly housing people with no connection to Wales. Because of course social housing in Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system. I have that on impeccable authority.

Back in early December 2010 I wrote a reader’s letter to the Wasting Mule seeking answers from Nick Bennett to a number of points. Instead of publishing it the Letters Editor passed my questions on to Bennett who then e-mailed me directly, saying: “Strong local connection cannot be the only acceptable qualification for social housing in Wales. Social housing is a scarce resource for homeless people and those on low incomes who can’t access housing in the private sector. There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing”.

Wales is the most corrupt country in Europe because it suits so many to have it that way. This corruption helps the Labour Party in Wales maintain power and influence despite declining support at the ballot box. Facilitated by Common Purpose and other bodies, this corruption discredits devolution and thereby strengthens England’s hold on Wales to the point where assimilation will have been achieved before most of us realise it.

If I was working for Pembrokeshire Housing I’d be getting worried now, because the vultures are circling – they may already have landed! And yet, just like Cantref, you brought it on yourselves, in your case with the insane decision to fund a private house builder subsidiary. And what will happen to Mill Bay Homes when Wales and West Housing takes over?

To understand how this system of colonialist corruption operates you have to recognise and understand the linkages, how they influence and contaminate public life in Wales. Social housing is the perfect example because it brings together so many threads. And it explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who ‘advise’ it want to save housing associations from public scrutiny.

But don’t think for one minute that the corruption is confined to our housing associations. Corruption is endemic in Welsh public life – because it’s encouraged.

♦ end ♦

Housing Associations: Secret or Public?

It’s difficult to know where to start with this rather complex story. Maybe we should go back to 2008 and the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, presented as an attempt to improve the standard of social housing. The WHQS was in fact nothing more than the Decent Homes Standard that operated in England. Another example of ‘Welsh’ legislation being just renamed and repackaged English legislation. Though in this instance, there was one very important difference, to be found in this National Assembly document, which says . . .

If the ‘Welsh’ Government can fund housing associations and also fund councils that retain their housing stock, then surely it can find the money for ALMOs? To argue otherwise doesn’t make sense. Limiting the choice to those options might make sense though to those in the social housing sector who saw WHQS as a weapon that could be used to get local authorities to hand over their housing stock. But do housing associations really exert such influence?

Well, consider this. The umbrella body for housing associations in Wales is Community Housing Cymru (CHC). From July 2006 until July 2014 the group chief executive of CHC was Nick Bennett. Prior to that he’d been a Spad for a few years until October 2002 and in between he’d been a director of Cwmni Cyfathrebu Bute Communications. Another director of this long-defunct company was Alun Davies, who had not long before switched his political allegiance from Plaid Cymru to Labour, and would be elected as a regional AM in 2007.

So Nick Bennett was in business with a rising star in the Labour Party – who’d already stood for the party in Ceredigion in the 2005 UK election – and this would have done him no harm when he applied for the post of group chief executive of Community Housing Cymru in 2006. Bennett’s strong links with ‘Welsh’ Labour also explain why he got the job of Public Service Ombudsman for Wales in July 2014.

In addition, many housing associations, particularly in the south, are stuffed with Labour Party members and supporters, and the party goes out of its way to help these associations. A recent example would be the takeover of Cantref by Wales and West. I’ve written about this disgraceful episode a few times, my posts can be traced back from Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged?

Cantref is a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, operating in a bilingual area with bilingual staff. It hit a rocky patch and a scavenger soon appeared in the form of Wales and West Housing, whose chief executive is Anne Hinchey, wife of Cardiff Labour councillor Graham Hinchey. Business is now conducted in English only and ‘Welsh’ Labour has an important beachhead in an area where it has very little electoral support.

The latest example of the influence housing associations exert over the Labour Party and its ‘Welsh’ Government comes with the news that, “In September (2016), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced housing associations should be considered part of the public, not private, sector. But the Welsh Government promised to take “whatever steps are necessary” to reverse the change, following concerns.”

The key to understanding what’s going on here is, firstly, that these “concerns” come from housing associations and their umbrella organisation Community Housing Cymru. I am not aware of anyone – other than CHC’s fifth column inside the ‘Welsh’ Government – who believes that housing associations becoming public bodies is a bad thing.

The reason given for opposing the ONS initiative is, “Community Housing Cymru (CHC) said it could affect their (housing associations) ability to borrow money and to build new homes.”

Let us look at the first of those claims that, if reclassified as public bodies, housing associations would find it more difficult to raise private funding. Which suggests that housing associations are now borrowing considerable sums from banks and other financial institutions. But are they? In my investigations into housing associations I have found little evidence that they rely on commercial loans. So where does housing associations’ income come from?

The largest and most obvious source of income is rents from their housing stock, most of which they inherited from local authorities. Yes, these properties have to be maintained and improved, up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, but as we’ll see below, the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me – pays for it all! And there are other funding streams, as I explained in Housing Associations – The Great Deception. (Nov 17, 2015.)

As I said back then, “One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.”

Another lucrative source of ‘Welsh’ Government funding for housing associations is the Social Housing Grant. The latest figures I have tell us that between 2008 and November 2015 £771,708,622.59 was paid in Social Housing Grant.

We are talking billions of pounds of public funding going into social housing. Perhaps four billion pounds by 2020.

The second part of housing associations’ objections to becoming public bodies is that they claim it could affect their ability “to build new homes”. Why? They’d still have the income from their rents, and they’d still receive public funding. This claim is just baseless scaremongering done to hide the real objections those running our housing associations have to them becoming public bodies.

As things stand, housing associations, or Registered Social Landlords as they’re also known, have the best of all possible worlds. They operate as private companies, but with massive advantages over what we would normally consider to be private companies.

To begin with, most of them inherited their housing stock for nothing when council tenants were given a vote (often after receiving misleading information). Then, as I’ve just explained, they receive staggering amounts of money from the public purse, despite, with their assets, being able to raise private funding just like other businesses. Being registered as Industrial and Provident Societies with the toothless Financial Conduct Authority means that they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act – yes, despite all that public funding! Finally, oversight and monitoring by the ‘Welsh’ Government is non-existent.

This last fact explains how we can have a situation in which a publicly-funded RSL like Pembrokeshire Housing can set up and fund a subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, for it to build and sell homes on the open market to retirees and investors (with of course Mill Bay Homes having an unfair advantage over independent house builders in the county).

When Pembrokeshire Housing will get back the millions of pounds it is has ‘loaned’ to Mill Bay Homes is anyone’s guess . . . but why should you worry when nobody in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems in the least concerned by this bizarre arrangement. I have written about Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes many times. Work back from Welsh Social Housing, A Broken System (Oct 23, 2016) to Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2 (June 14, 2016).

Those of you who enjoy a good read should settle down with this report into the workings of the Pembrokeshire Housing Group compiled by a concerned member of the public. (No, not me.) It has been circulated to interested parties, too many of whom seem to believe that if they whistle and look elsewhere the embarrassment will disappear.

But there are so many other problems with housing associations.

The most recent stock transfer seems to have been in Gwynedd, in 2010, when the council transferred its housing stock to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG). Among the first things CCG did was to hand over the maintenance contract for its properties to English company Lovell, which then brought in sub-contractors from north west England. I saw this first-hand in my village, and wrote about it in The Impoverishment of Wales (Aug 26, 2014).

Another issue I recently unearthed was that of housing associations leasing properties from shady offshore companies, the biggest of which is called Link holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. I wrote about it in a piece entitled, unsurprisingly, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd (Oct 10, 2016). Equally unsurprising is that the ‘Welsh’ Government’s civil servants don’t want to talk about this scandal, ‘All a long time ago . . . leases taken out by previous incarnations . . . stop bothering us’. But nothing changes the fact that Welsh housing associations in 2017 are putting a lot of public money into companies hiding in tax havens. Should public money be used in this way?

A long-standing problem with housing associations, perhaps more visible in rural areas, is that in order to appear busy, to pretend there’s a demand in order to keep the funding coming, they will often bring into Wales misfits and petty criminals. This was certainly an issue with Cantref. Note the reference in the information below to “young tenants from the hostel”. I’m told that Cantref brings in from England young tearaways and within a very short time extended families of scruffs and roughs are wandering Aberteifi. Other housing associations do the same, because it pays well.

One of the worst cases in recent years was the gang of paedophiles and rapists housed in Kidwelly by Grwp Gwalia. I wonder how much Grwp Gwalia was paid to inflict these creatures on a small Welsh town? Were those responsible ever reprimanded or sacked? Did Grwp Gwalia compensate the victims?

It was in attempting to get information on this case that I realised housing associations are not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. Because when I asked for details a door was slammed in my face . . . a heavy and expensive door paid for with public money.

Finally, before leaving this section, let’s ask ourselves exactly who is complaining about the ONS proposal to make housing associations open and honest public bodies? Well we can be sure that the minions employed by our RSLs don’t have a direct line to Stuart Ropke, Nick Bennett’s successor as Group Chief Executive at Community Housing Cymru. The opposition is coming from much further up the food chain.

From people like the £150,000 a year chief executive of RCT Homes. After that bit of bad publicity RCT Homes rebranded itself as Trivallis. Most people in the Central Valleys are still trying to figure out what Trivallis means, and how much it cost to change everything. But, hey, it’s only public money, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

With social housing we have bodies operating in a Twilight Zone that allows them to pretend they’re private companies, free from bothersome FoI requests and any worthwhile official scrutiny, yet enjoying assets they did nothing to build up while having their finances constantly topped up by the public purse. With overpaid CEOs pretending they’re part of the business community.

Registered Social Landlords are part of the Third Sector, that monkey that we must shake from our backs if we are to build up a healthy economy and a prosperous country. Wales is over-dependent on hand-outs, but instead of using even that funding wisely, far too much of it is passed on in further hand-outs. This is trickle-down economics Welsh style.

The fundamental problem with the Third Sector in Wales is not that it exists – for there will always be shysters looking for some ’cause’ to exploit in their own interest – but that it is so interwoven with the ‘Labour movement’; which in itself might not be a problem were it not for the fact that ‘Welsh’ Labour is the recipient and distributor of the handouts.

We should be thankful to the Office for National Statistics for giving us this chance to clean up the expensive mess that is social housing in Wales. We should grasp this opportunity with both hands and make our housing associations public bodies, open to public scrutiny.

The worst possible outcome would be for the ‘Welsh’ Government to be swayed by individuals like Nick Bennett, Stuart Ropke, the £150,000 a year CEO of Trivallis, and too many others with a vested interest in maintaining the indefensible status quo.

To maintain that status quo would be to pander to a selfish, sectional interest against the national interest. Of which we have seen far too much since 1999.

♦ end ♦

P.S. Here is my submission to the Public Accounts Committee for its Inquiry into the Regulatory Oversight of Housing Associations.

Updates & Tit-bits, November 21, 2016

SWANSEA

Persecution

Where better to start than the old home town. (Which still ‘looks the same as I step down from the train, and there to greet me’ – is a welcoming committee from the local Labour Party. ‘Good old Jac’, they cry. Well, laff!)

As you may recall, I wrote a while back about the case of Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and her alleged homophobic assault on Jenny Lee Clarke, when both worked in Labour’s Swansea East  constituency office for MP Siân James. It even made the London ‘papers, here’s how the Telegraph treated it.

Meryl
This picture has nothing to do with the article . . . but I just can’t resist it! That hat!

Harris took over from James as MP in May 2015, the story about the alleged assault made the news in the second half of November then, on January 28, Clarke was dismissed from her job with immediate effect. I’ve seen the letter from Carolyn Harris; it’s one of those, ‘Clear your desk and sod off – now!  letters. We’ve all had them, I’ve got a drawer full. Things have not gone well for Clarke since then.

For not only did she lose her job, she was also accused of stealing money from her erstwhile employer (one C. Harris); and the most recent assault on her peace of mind, in September, was to be told by Swansea council that they’d stopped her housing benefit because someone had informed them she’d died! Naturally she reported this to the police, but they just messed her about a bit and refused to proceed with the case.

As for Labour-controlled Swansea council, you have to ask whose word they took that Jenny Clarke was dead. There was obviously no death certificate produced . . . or if there was then it was a forgery. But they are unable to explain how they came to accept that Jenny Clarke was demised. A third party points the finger at a close associate of Harris within the council – but who’s gonna investigate? This is Wales. This is the Labour Party.

As for the theft allegation, well this drags on . . . and on. The cops just keep extending her ‘Pre-Charge Conditional Bail’ (as it’s described on the form); the police bail was extended until November 7, and now it’s been extended again until February 17. I doubt if there will be charges; this is just the cops playing mind games.

This is a disgusting episode even for a corrupt and backward country like ours. The dominant political party engages in the kind of vindictive behaviour for which it is infamous, and yet what’s really worrying is that the police seem to be going along with this persecution of a woman whose only mistake was crossing the local political machine.

Persecution Complex?

Someone who may have good reason to be looking over his shoulder is the leader of Swansea council, Rob Stewart, one of the Morriston councillors. For the word echoing along the corridors is that conspirators are grouping around his ousted predecessor David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, he of the red duffle coat (click to view).Benito Phillips, Il Duce Abertawe

As we speak, plots are being hatched, alliances formed, and positions of power allotted in the post-coup council. But back to the present.

One of the popular programmes on the Swansea Sound radio station is The Sunday Hotline presented by Kevin Johns. People phone in and have a moan about this and that, you know the sort of thing.

Any criticism of Swansea council is immediately answered by Stewart, who doesn’t phone in to defend himself, but sends an e-mail! –  ‘And following that heartfelt complaint from Mrs Lloyd of Penclawdd about the council doing nothing to arrest and castrate Romanian cockle-pickers we’ve had an e-mail from council leader Rob Stewart, who argues . . . ‘.

Can’t you just picture him of a Sunday morning, still fizzy from too much lemonade the night before, in his marmalade-streaked pyjamas, trembling finger hovering over the keyboard as he listens to the bile spewing forth from his radio. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? But who knows, after next May, he might be able to cwtsh in under his duvet on a Sunday, unless of course he decides to put on strange voices and start phoning in complaints about his successor.

‘Good Night, John Boy’

Someone else I’ve written about more times than I wanted to is councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, perhaps the last of the student councillors recruited by Davidbayliss-twitter-nov-2016 Phillips and his wife Sybil Crouch, who works in Swansea university. Though I suppose there could be a few new ones in May.

Despite being a councillor for the Uplands ward, and despite living in Swansea, you wouldn’t be aware of that from his Twitter account; but ‘Uplands, Swansea’ or ‘Uplands ward in Swansea’ appeared on all his previous Twitter incarnations. (Two examples here and here.) And although it says “2017 local election candidate” it doesn’t say where. He’s certainly not standing for re-election in the Uplands (here’s Labour’s Magnificent Four for May, including the balding Lili Marlene), so where is he standing, is it even in Wales?

Maybe he’s standing in Bristol, where he works. Or is he going home to mummy and daddy in Sussex? Who cares? It looks like he’s leaving Swansea, and that’s the main thing. The only one who might miss him is Il Duce.

UPDATE 21.11.2016: A good source informs me that Bayliss may be standing for Cardiff council in May, either in Fairwater or Llandaff. Which makes sense, as he works in Bristol. But he was only recruited by the Remarkable Group because he was a Swansea Labour councillor and Remarkable was involved with the contentious Mynydd y Gwair wind farm. What use might a lobbying company like Remarkable have for him in Cardiff? P.S. Now confirmed by a second source.

LLANELLI

The Invisible Man Moves

Sticking with the topic of Labour councillors on the move, we cross the tumbling waters of the mighty Llwchwr to Llanelli, where many people are asking why Rob James is moving there from Neath. At present James is the Labour councillor for the Bryncoch South ward . . . though you’d be forgiven for not knowing that, certainly if you were going by his attendance record.

For as Stan at the Neath Ferret tells us, between May and the end of October, James had attended 2/5 full council meetings; 0/3 meetings of the Environmental and Highways Scrutiny Committee; 0/4 Social Care, Health and Housing Scrutiny Committee; 0/1 Licensing and Gambling Acts Committee; 0/3 Registration and Licensing Committee: and as might be expected, he didn’t bother turning up for the council’s Annual Meeting in May either. Impressive, no?

rob-james
He may not bother turning up for meetings, but Councillor Rob James recognises a photo opportunity when he sees one. Look out, Llanelli – he’s coming your way!

What’s worse, to accommodate the Invisible Man from Neath Llanelli Labour has deselected Lliedi ward councillor Bill Thomas. Who’s he? Let Cneifiwr tell us, “Bill Thomas has ploughed his lonely furrow for 17 years, doing the sort of things which most people would like to imagine that all councillors do. For starters, he has a mind of his own, which marks him out from a good many of his colleagues. He has stood up for his ward through thick and thin, fought a long campaign to try to get justice for the cocklers whose livelihoods have been wrecked by releases of raw sewage into the Burry Inlet. He has fought an even longer and equally fruitless campaign to get justice for Mr and Mrs Clive and Pam Edwards, victims of incredible incompetence and an even more incredible refusal to put matters right by the council. He has banged on for years about the madness of building new homes on flood plains, and he played a key role in uncovering Mark and Meryl’s plans to flog off Parc Howard in Llanelli – while Labour was running the council.”

So it’s pretty obvious why Labour should want to remove a conscientious councillor and replace him with someone who’ll cause no problems, but that doesn’t explain why James is making the move. He could just as easily not turn up in Neath as Llanelli, so why go through the hassle of switching, filling in those forms and risking defeat?

In all seriousness, how does Llanelli Labour Party justify dumping a good councillor and replacing him with an outsider, especially an outsider with James’ attendance record? It really is taking the electorate for granted.

Now a Labour Politician Who Didn’t Move, Allegedly

Staying in Sosban . . . well, maybe, we look at the AM for the town, young Lee Waters. Now no one disputes that Lee was raised in Ammanford, but he’s spent recent years in the Cardiff area, and it’s being suggested that he still lives in the Vale, in Barry to be precise.

Which might be fine, had he not told the Turk electorate in May that his happy abode was in New Zealand Street, Llanelli. He pipped the Plaid Cymru candidate by 382 votes.

‘Poumista’

Another recently announced candidate for May’s county council elections is Gary Robert Jones. You’ll recognise the name from my posts on the ongoing campaign of bigotry against Welsh language education in Llangennech. No doubt ‘poumista’ is hoping to capitalise on his notoriety.

poumista

His Twitter handle is taken from the Spanish initials of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, an extremist party active in the Spanish Civil War, mainly in Catalonia. (It might even have the same initials in Catalan.) POUM seemed to be opposed to everybody else involved, on both sides. Here’s a short write-up from 1936, but don’t all rush to join, POUM was thankfully dissolved in 1980.

That POUM no longer exists seems not to bother Jones one bit. In fact, to judge by his Twitter account, I’m not sure he realises WWII is over either. If in the modern era we judge politicians by their tweets and re-tweets then there should be some concerns about @poumista. Here’s one re-tweet I salvaged, put out late last Saturday night; it’s of a female Russian sniper under a photo of one the biggest butchers in human history. Such taste!

poumista-russian-sniper

I urge you to check out the Twitter account of the Labour hopeful for Llangennech and Bryn before he starts deleting. There are some very revealing tweets and re-tweets there. Including of course re-tweets of Lee Waters telling us of his occasional trips from Barry to Llanelli.

To finish with Llanelli I must mention a curious message I received to my ‘contact me’ box in the sidebar. It named a very prominent individual in the Llanelli Labour Party and seemed to suggest that this person had – perhaps by questionable means – come into possession of a number of former council properties. Any further information would be appreciated.

THE LEAVING OF LABOUR

It’s not just Labour politicians moving (or not, as the case may be), or putting themselves up for election, there are other movements with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and very encouraging they are too.

The first story I picked on was from Caerffili, where two Labour councillors resigned last month promising to set up their own party. One of them, Allan Rees, alleged that “nepotism and cronyism is rife” within the local Labour Party. Not just your local party, Allan, come and talk with Uncle Jac.

Then, a few days ago, we learnt that six councillors had been ‘de-selected’ (a term I’m sure the man in the photo would have approved of) by the Ogmore Constituency Labour Party.

On top of that, Labour has lost a couple of seats on Cardiff city council in recent by-elections. First, the Lib Dem candidate won in the Plasnewydd ward; then Plaid Cymru took one of the Grangetown seats.

But remember, these upheavals for Labour have nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn and his hard left supporters eliminating the hated ‘Blairites’ – that storm has yet to break in Wales! Labour has real problems, but this is no time to stand around gloating – put the boot in!

OUR HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is, as the name might suggest, a secretive offshore company, one owning a great deal of property across southern Wales, from Llanelli eastwards. Here’s a list of Link’s properties compiled from the Private Eye database.

link-gibraltar

Offshore property ownership is disturbing enough of itself, but the reason I wrote Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd was because I’d learnt that housing associations are leasing, and possibly renting, from Link. So naturally I wrote to the ‘Welsh’ Government seeking answers. Here’s a combined pdf of my original request, the reply, and my response to that reply. (Read it now or keep it for a rainy afternoon.)

I kept a number of politicians informed of my concerns regarding Link Holdings, and also with the bizarre – possibly unique – relationship between Pembrokeshire Housing and its offspring Mill Bay Homes. One of these politicians showed me the response received from minister Carl Sargeant. It’s worth sharing. Here it is.

You’ll note that in the first part of the letter, talking of the Social Housing Grant with regard to Pembrokeshire Housing, Sargeant, or whoever wrote the letter, is clear that SHG must be “spent on pre-determined developments and projects”. Which is what I would expect, because I’ve always regarded the SHG as a capital grant for new housing, creating jobs and putting money into an area.

Yet in the second part of the letter, when dealing with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, we read, “An RSL (registered Social Landlord aka housing association) is able to purchase the leasehold title of a property, and is able to receive Social Housing Grant Money to do so”.  How can a capital grant for “pre-determined developments and projects” be used to lease old properties from offshore companies?

As I’ve argued for years, housing associations are one the worst uses of public funding imaginable, but major change is on the horizon. Thank God!

HAPPY DONKEY HILL

Regular readers will recall that some time ago now I had cause to write about a rather unpleasant woman named Kate Clamp living near Llandysul. She changed the name of her property – actually owned by her multi-millionaire father – from Faerdre Fach to Happy Donkey Hill.

In one of my posts I used this image from her Facebook page, but I’d assumed the use of ‘Lady’ was a joke. (As would ‘lady’ be in this case.) But not so, for a series of messages I’ve received to my Facebook page tell me that Clamp and her current consort have taken to styling themselves ‘Lord and Lady Clamp’ in earnest.

Lady Kate Clamp Facebook

My contact has been in touch with Burke’s Peerage, Debrett’s and various other sources and is assured that the duo has no claim to any title. So have they bought one off some website? Or maybe they splashed out a few thousand on one of those ‘Lord of the Manor’ titles that allows you to make a nuisance of yourself. (I used to vaguely know a bloke who collected such ‘titles’.)

But the point is – as my contact was keen to stress – the Clamps are in a competitive business, and if they’re gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors by falsely claiming to be aristocrats, then surely they’re breaking some law? If nothing else, shouldn’t the local Trading Standards office be involved?

happy-donkey-hill

My contact also had something to say about a ‘missing’ donkey, and police involvement, but that can keep for another post, because I’m sure I’ll be writing about ‘Lord and Lady’ Clamp again in the near future.

♦ end ♦

Welsh Social Housing, A Broken System

My previous post dealt with offshore property company Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd and housing associations leasing properties from it, though I made passing reference – just a paragraph – to another publicly funded housing association, Pembrokeshire Housing, and Mill Bay Homes, the latter a subsidiary of the former that builds houses to sell to anyone.

This brief mention was enough to send someone scampering to Hugh James, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s favourite legal firm. (Indeed, to judge by the amount of business Carwyn’s civil servants put the way of Hugh James you’d think there were no other lawyers in Wales.) And so on Friday evening I received another threatening letter from Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward.

It says: “You are required to remove the statement from the website and any other location (either in hard or soft copy) in which you have published it by no later than 9am on Monday 23 October 2016. (Monday is actually the 24th.) You are also required to confirm in writing by way of undertaking that the allegation will not be repeated.” Read it for yourself.

Hugh James logo

You will see that the period of grace I am allowed in which to recant left me no opportunity to seek advice from other members of Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s profession. So I have had to rely on my own counsel, which directed me to refuse capitulation but to amend the offending paragraph. If it still offends, anyone, hard luck, because that’s all you’re getting.

In many ways, Mill Bay Homes is a curious beast. To begin with, it is a Registered Social Landlord (No L124) and yet (as far as I can tell), it receives no funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, this is as it should be, for Mill Bay Homes does not build or rent social housing . . . so why is it a Registered Social Landlord?

The answer is that Mill Bay Homes ‘inherited’ its RSL number when Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 – a craft that never launched – changed its name to Mill Bay Homes in February 2012. After which Mill Bay Homes took off to become one of the leading house builders in the county, using money transferred from Pembrokeshire Housing – which of course does receive public funding.

This paragraph is directed to the ‘Welsh’ Government, more specifically, the Housing Directorate.

If Mill Bay Homes applied to become a Registered Social Landlord tomorrow you would, quite correctly, turn down the application for the obvious reason that MBH neither builds nor rents social housing. (This explains why it does not receive Social Housing Grant or other funding.) That being so, why do you allow MBH to retain the RSL number of its predecessor?’

Anomalies abound when we consider the relationship between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes. We can even add Pembrokeshire County Council to the mix, for both have a close relationship with the local authority. Take, for example, this S106 agreement drawn up just before Christmas last year between MBH and the council.

The agreement deals with “four Social Rented Housing Units” and “two Intermediate Housing Units” in the Newton Heights development totalling some 55 properties at Kilgetty. Later in that document, in Schedule 4, we encounter the paragraph below.

mbh-s106

“The RSL” has to be Pembrokeshire Housing, if only because Mill Bay Homes does not receive grant funding (and wouldn’t be buying from itself). Which means that, having transferred millions of pounds to Mill Bay Homes for it to build homes for sale, Pembrokeshire Housing will then use grant funding to buy one (or more?) of those properties.

I can’t help thinking that something ‘clever’ is going on here. Maybe too clever for old Jac. Another one for the Housing Directorate? So let me frame it as a question.

‘Publicly funded Pembrokeshire Housing shuffles money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes. Mill Bay Homes builds private dwellings. Now it appears that Pembrokeshire Housing buys properties from Mill Bay Homes with grant funding.

Why doesn’t Pembrokeshire Housing just build its own social housing with the money it receives from the ‘Welsh’ Government for that express purpose?’

Come to that, how many social housing units could Pembrokeshire Housing have built with the millions it’s passed to Mill Bay Homes? Is there no demand in Pembrokeshire for more social housing? If not, why is Pembrokeshire Housing still receiving grant funding?

Something is not right down west. Money goes into Pembrokeshire Housing from various sources, gets mixed up, and comes out the other end, with over £6m going to MBH (by the end of the financial year 31.03.2015).

Yet we are asked to believe that none of this money comes from grants received from the ‘Welsh’ Government. In other words, it is not public funding. Maybe the source is rents received from PH’s tenants, or money from sales of social housing. But who paid for that housing in the first place?

All of Pembrokeshire Housing’s assets and income ultimately derive from the public purse. That being so, should any of it be used to build open market housing?

As I say above, my mention of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes was little more than a passing reference in a piece about Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that owns a few thousand properties across southern Wales, from Llanelli eastwards, so let us return to the main dish.

I contacted the Coastal Housing Group in Swansea, one of the housing associations leasing properties from Link Holdings, but the exchange ended with the message below. Clearly, the shutters have gone up.

coastal-housing

In the hope of getting more information on the relationship between housing associations and offshore companies I tried another angle by writing to the First minister, Carwyn Jones. Within a couple of days I received this response from the Housing Directorate.

We can do naught but wait, and hope . . .

Looking at this latest threat from Hugh James I can’t help wondering who exactly triggered it. Was it really Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes? If so, then they were a bit slow off the mark, because the post had been up for a week before Ms Singlehurst-Ward swung into action.

Picture it, gentle reader; there I am, blogging merrily away, exposing the scandal that housing associations are dealing with property companies registered in tax havens, and that money is passing from a publicly-funded RSL to its subsidiary, for that subsidiary to build private housing, and wham! – out of a clear blue sky comes another threatening letter from Hugh James, a company that itself has grown fat off the public purse.

An unkind soul might say they’re all in it together, civil servants, RSLs, lawyers, etc, all sucking on the teat of the public purse, so why not watch each other’s backs, hang together lest they hang separately?

Which raises the possibility that certain persons know about the arrangement in Pembrokeshire, and are quite happy to fund it. And perhaps these same people also know that housing associations are dealing with companies hiding in tax havens that could be run by gangsters, and they also support this arrangement.

Because imagine the embarrassment in certain quarters if it became known that homes were being built in Pembrokeshire by a company funded by a housing association that has received tens of millions in grants from the ‘Welsh’ Government, and that some of these properties are sold to English retirees or used as holiday homes. Or that housing associations are officially encouraged to deal with faceless companies in tax havens!

This would explain why such people, instead of responding with, ‘Thank you, Jac, for drawing this to our attention, your OBE is in the pipeline, regularly set the dogs on me!

I have argued for some time that the system of publicly-funded Registered Social Landlords is unsustainable in the long run. We are, effectively, giving public money to what are in many cases unaccountable private companies. As I see it, there are three options:

1/ Cut RSLs adrift and let them support themselves by raising private funding. (After all, they are asset rich.)

2/ Return the role of social housing provision, together with the current stock, to local authorities. 

3/ Let the ‘Welsh’ Government take over the social housing stock and set up a national body along the lines of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The more I learn of RSLs the more convinced I become that the existing system of social housing provision in Wales is broken. For anyone to pretend otherwise is to be wilfully blind or else defend known practises that would shock and outrage most people if they gained wider publicity than they get from my blog.

Which might be the answer to everything.

END 

Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd: An Open Letter to Carwyn Jones

October 17th 2016

First Minister,

You may have read my previous post, ‘Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd‘. If not, then I suggest you read it, if only to help you understand what follows.

Your government gives a great deal of public money to housing associations. These bodies are largely unregulated and, as a consequence, a law unto themselves. (One reason so many of them run into ‘difficulties’.) For example, Pembrokeshire Housing – a body that receives a great deal of money from the public purse – funds its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes in the building of private houses for sale.  

The emergence of this particular scandal is due entirely to dedicated individuals rather than to the media, politicians, or those answerable to you who claim to be overseeing the Registered Social Landlords you so lavishly fund.

Now it emerges that housing associations funded by your government are leasing – perhaps also renting – property from Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that is registered in a tax haven to hide the identity of those behind it, also to escape UK regulations and of course to avoid paying UK tax.

On Sunday, the Guardian told us that Arron Banks, funder of Ukip, friend of Nigel Farage and financial backer of his recent Leave.EU campaign, also makes use of Gibraltar. (Read it here.) When I read the story bells rang because details of Banks’ Gibraltar connection seemed familiar to me.

That’s because both Link Holdings and Arron Banks use Parliament Lane Nominees as directors, and both also use STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries. (Check Link Holdings’ company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar to confirm this.)

Coincidence? Probably, but the Guardian article raises the possibility that Welsh housing associations, funded and supposedly regulated by the Welsh Government, could be leasing properties from Arron Banks.

Despite the blog post I refer you to focusing on Swansea this problem is not confined to that city, or to Link Holdings. To begin with, Link Holdings owns property across southern Wales, so it’s reasonable to assume that RSLs in other areas have an arrangement with Link. Then, knowing that Link is one of many offshore companies owning property in Wales makes it equally reasonable to assume that housing associations have dealings with companies other than Link. (Read this.)

It doesn’t matter which possibility we consider, neither does your government or the housing associations involved any favours. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd could be owned by Arron Banks, or it could be owned by the Mafia, the Moonies, or money-launderers, we just don’t know.

Successive Labour administrations in the Assembly have told us they believe in ‘openness’, they’ve also reminded us how responsible they are in their handling of the public purse. You now have an opportunity to prove that these claims are more than empty rhetoric.

Unless, that is, you see nothing wrong with housing associations passing on public funding to property companies registered in tax havens. But I find that difficult to believe.

I also believe that no right-thinking Welsh politician would sanction what I have explained here, so we are entitled to know who is behind Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. We are also entitled to know if you and the housing associations involved are unable to identify who is behind this company.

Someone also needs to explain why the Welsh Government allowed publicly-funded bodies to do business with companies registered in tax havens. Before, finally, promising that such behaviour will be brought to an end.

It’s clear from the Link Holdings case, from what’s happening in Pembrokeshire, and from other evidence, that the social housing sector is in one hell of a mess. A well-funded but almost completely unregulated mess.

The answer to this problem lies in genuine reform, not in encouraging housing associations run by Labour Party members to take over faltering RSLs in order to increase Labour’s stranglehold on Welsh public life. (I am of course referring here to the recent Wales and West takeover of Cantref.)

Let me conclude by suggesting that you, First Minister, practise what your party preaches about openness and concern for the public purse by making sure that no more of our money reaches secretive companies registered in Gibraltar or any other tax haven.

END

UPDATE 18.10.2016: I have now decided to write directly to the First Minister. Here’s my letter.